This photo an experiment for me. I don't usually overly manipulate my photos after I scan them in. It's usually just a matter of my tweaking colour, density, and sharpness. To be clear, this isn't a moral stand. It comes more from my a) lack of a good digital file to begin to work with and b) lack of skills using the powerful tool that is Photoshop. The debate over the validity of digital photography and photographic manipulation doesn't seem to be as strong as it was. In the very act of making a photograph, digital or film, you are making changes. You make decisions about subject, composition, exposure in order to create an image. I think there are two questions that are at the root of the manipulation debate. What makes a photograph a photograph? And, what is art? Photography has such a wide range of uses that it makes setting rules down about its use problematic. Sometimes the question of photographic manipulation is answered by saying that there is a certain line (wherever that may be) that gets crossed where the manipulation changes it from a photograph into an attempt at art. This answer is generally insulting to photographer and also shows a lack of respect for the reaches of art. It also elevates a lot of bad manipulation into the realm of art simply because of the fact that the photograph is manipulated. I have no real answer to these questions, and I'm not sure that I ever will. It's a hard job to linguistically nail down categories for such a fluid and expansive medium.
All this talk of manipulation and the fluidity of medium gets me thinking about Russell Maier, Fire-painter.