I'm quite sure Michael, who did consider the art of subtraction to be very important in photography, would've nonetheless taken great issue with "the photographer creates nothing." And, as the rest of your post touches on, rightly so.
Quite true. The reason I mentioned it is because Michael's graphic definition of the essential difference between 'art' and photography, stuck in my mind after I first read it about 15 to 20 years ago. It's an interesting concept.
I get the impression there have been many artists throughout the modern era of the development of the camera, who have been torn between the use of a paint brush and the use of a more technical and complex tool such as the camera.
That totally black, RAW image, that I was confronted with when I opened the image in Bridge, reminded me of the situation of a painter who begins with a white, blank canvas, and adds to it.
By retrieving the hidden detail in that black image, using my best skills, was like adding to a black canvas (as opposed to the white canvas that the painter adds to).
Many people probably delete all images that don't initially look nice, because they allow the camera to do all the processing.
However, processing the image from the RAW data is a large part of the artistic dimension in photography, in my view, but not the only aspect of course.