Michael,
I have read and reread your post several times since it's insertion. I hestitated in responding because you posed an excellent question and I initially didn't know how I felt about the example that you gave.

I was disturbed, obviously. However, I really couldn't determine what the basis of that disturbance was other that at some level the photographic process that I think that I am engaged in was violated by the manufacturing of an image apart from reality. Composing the image, in the exposing of the negative, or printing that image in the manner that I want seems a marked departure from inserting objects that did not exist at the moment of the exposure.

Perhaps, Picasso said what has been reported here. I can not argue with the fact that many have found enjoyment in his work. However, I have not found much in the way of the deep emotional movement, present in his works, that I feel when I view a photograph by Paul Strand, Edward Weston, or Brett Weston...not now, nor ever to this point.

In fact I am not nearly as appreciative of Ansels works as I once was. His images, by and large, are beautiful. But they seem almost too beautiful to be realistic at times. However they were not manufactured in the manner that you described in your post. If all that we are about is the creation of beauty, whatever in the hell that is to each and every one of us, then I would guess that we will depart from reality fairly consistently. Will that manufactured beauty move me deep inside where I live...I think not.