A very compicated essay which I read through. I have been a magazine photographer since 1977 but retired a few years ago with the decline of journalism.
Few during and after the American Civil War ever saw the images taken by Timothy O’Sullivan, Alexander Gardner or Matthew Brady. It was until the 1870s when the halftone method of photographic reproduction made photographs available to the general public in newspapers. The power of photography from that point on was governed by magazines and newspapers. It was the money behind those publications that pushed the boundary of photography. In WW II there was a reluctance (a prohibition?) of showing dead American soldiers.
Now in this 21st century photographs (and so many more of them) are available for all to see. The power of the so-called authenticity of a photograph (which in many cases was so because the photographer was known for integrity or the integrity of the publication that had hired him,her) has been deminished by special effects and Photoshop so much more efficient at masking reality than the air brush or the Soviet collage.
Nobody will deny the authenticity of the drowned little boy on the beach. But these images are now rare.There is no personality or style to be found (or at least it is rare) in contemporary photographs and portraits.
Perhaps a look back at photography at its prime just like some are eschewing digital recordings for anolog ones will bring back photography and give it relevance.