This makes no sense to me Rob. I used film for decades but have never bought in to the notion that using film makes one a better photographer or that some how having visible grain in a print somehow trumps photos made with a digital camera.
Yes there is a different print syntax made with analog materials but at this point in photo history what does it matter? It's the photo content as well as the final representation that is important to me but analog isn't inherently better nor is digital photography.
PS Thanks to the OP for the links to the Arbus articles. She will be remembered in my mind as an important photographer of the 21st century.
And neither should you buy into the idea you've suggested. Nothing makes one a better photographer but oneself.
My view, and it's only my opinion, is that a print made via the wet process, by the hands of a good printer, has something that a digital print, made by an equally competent digital guy, can not have: its look.
Grain, of itself, is not the key: in fact much of the time in my pro life, the wish was to minimize grain as much as possible. That said, grain today, in my 'pleasure photos' - for want of a better name - is something that I actively try to replicate if for no other reason than that it removes, slightly, the sterility of the process/look that I feel digital is cursed with for this sort of self-indulgent type of image-making. It seems to me that producing an image where there is nothing visible except the cold reality of either a face, a glass and concrete building or anything else, is kind of pointless unless there's a commission in the background, where the objective is to produce as good, and clear, a rendering of the subject as is humanly possible. In such a case, the bigger the original capture surface and the lesser the intrusion of any external factor (such as grain) the better!
On the other hand, for my idea of 'personal work', grain brings its own quality that I find appealing. Which is why I mentioned it in connection with the Arbus images in the supplied link. It's my opinion that had Arbus used a digtial camera we would not find much charm in her oeuvre. Yes, she did indeed, at least according to the review, change over to larger formats when she was a little older, as can perhaps be deduced from the formats of the various pictures. But, unless she left some written documentation as to why she did that (the change), the reason(s) remain speculation. Was she afraid of grain? Did she actually have poor technical ability? Did she simply find larger formats more convenient tools? Did she really know what she was doing in either sense?
My reason for suggesting that some here could benefit from looking at the images in the links was this: there is real grain, and there is the bogus stuff packaged as grain, for using along with the rest of the digital workings. Genuine grain is different in look, and develops in a natural picture in a different way, and does not show up evenly and indiscriminately, as a layer, on top of all the other tones extant in the basic digital picture. Neither is it normally as aggressive and intrusive a look. Grain has subtlety, something I find lacking in much new photography, either as result of medium or lack of understanding on the part of the new photographers (some!).
At this point in photo history, does it matter, you ask? It has always mattered, along with every other factor that impinges upon the process of creating an image.