There was a time when everybody thought that if an event was captured in a photograph it was supposedly true. The photograph was the ultimate proof it really happened. Even the internet knows the saying "pics - or it didn't happen" and mind you, that stems from a time when Photoshop was already around.
I'd say that time is long gone, but still, it is very deeply rooted in people's mind that a photographic image represents the truth. Despite the fact that they know an image can be easily manipulated, anyone can do it on their phone. Despite the fact that the reality is three-dimensional. Despite the fact that Santorini doesn't look like the over-saturated HDR image everybody and their mother posts on the web.
So I think we can agree on this - a photographic image is an interpretation of the reality the photographer saw. Even without post-production. Already the choice of parameter settings, the choice of lens, the choice of from where to shoot the subject matter is an interpretation.
But here is something else, something the photographer/artist needs to think about as well, at least in my humble opinion - what is the reality?
Reality itself is not a set truth that is the same for all of us. I think reality can be interpreted, I myself am the only one to define reality for me. Let that sink in for a minute.
What I am saying is that what is real for you and me depends on our perception of things and of what we associate with these things. And then we might end up with more or less different realities.
As an example: Just as Wonko, the Sane (what do you mean you don't know Douglas Adams?), I live in a place called "Outside of the Asylum". Out there, people clearly went section 8, meaning all-out nuts. We have built a reality that covers the earth with concrete and tarmac, houses and malls, parking lots and airports and join in groups called nations and think of our group as being superior to another and in general kill others and the planet we were given to live on.
I accept as real the trees and clouds, the deserts and oceans, animals and human beings, the greatness of a nature I cannot begin to understand and let alone explain and I think the only way to live right is in awe and respect of that nature of which I am a part. That, my friends, is REAL. And that is what I want to photograph and interpret and show over and over and over again, hoping you'll see what I see and find your own reality. In my images and out there, in the asylum ...