If I came across as hardline on thus issue, it's simply an overreaction to what I see as means being used to massage an original into "something" (look at the original examples given) rather than craft it into a finished product that maximizes the original intent (presumably there was one). I don't see any long-term personal vision coming from the former.
There is a dirty little secret that a lot of photographers have; they go to a location and don't have a fully preconceived and planned image in their heads when they go out shooting. Instead they take a whole bunch of shots of whatever seems visually interesting to them at the time. Later they look through the pictures they have taken (call them snapshots if you like) and try to choose the best images and work them into a shape that pleases them.
They may have had a broad notion of the type of images they were looking for that day, they may have a general social or artistic theme or body of work they are trying to build up. But they didn't necessarily know consciously before they took the shot what they were looking for. Given the resources they would not have been able to build a movie set to build that image.
I must confess, I am such a photographer, and always feel somewhat intimidated when people go around professing an "artistic vision" that they held clearly in their head before they framed the shot, sometimes apparently even before they got where they were going. As it happens I suspect that I am far from alone. And I suspect that MR generally works the same way I do. (He's rather better than I am at it however.) I would also suggest that this is in fact true of many of the great photographers.
I must also say that looking at the portfolios of those who profess to having the higher vision compared to those who simply react visually to what they see, it's really not that clear that their work is any better.
So there is my confession. I sometimes go back to a picture afterwards and crop or make other adjustments because my vision failed me at the time, but nevertheless am often able to "rescue" something that pleases me. Sometimes there just was no "original intent". Sometimes indeed, there was an "original intent" and I messed up the shot, and yet fortuitously there is still something interesting that can be "rescued" from the shot, and occasionally even *gasp* dare I say better than my "original intent".
I have a question for the visionaries: How does the "decisive moment" fit into your photography? I would suggest that it cannot. Do you really have a list of shots that you want to get when you prepare for the day? And if those shots have old carts proceeding down interesting alleyways I would love to see some examples.
I also have a question about the nature of this thing called "original intent": does it actually matter at all? If two photographers take identical images of a scene, one had it all carefully thought out and planned. Took the shot, packed his gear and left. The other happened by just as the first was leaving. Had a look around and saw an interesting shot which he snapped. The two produce the same photograph - is the first any better? If so, why?
And just to stay on theme; the first photographer felt the scene would be best represented in a square format and so brought along his 6x6 camera. The second was using a 3:2 format and felt the best image was a square crop, which he decided later on when looking at it. The two images are identical. Is the first any better?
P.S. To Stephen please do not take this as a personal attack, in this thread you happen to be representative of a particular viewpoint, and my comments are intended in that light.