Klaus, I think you've raised a number of interesting points here.
If I take a photograph with my old camera (purchased 1976) I try a few bracketing shots and then pop the film into the chemists for developing and printing. If the picture doesn't come out quite how I'd like it - tough - I've done my own black and white printing in the past but I never did colour.
Now we have a very fine degree of control over the camera settings and arguably an even finer degree over the final image, due to packages like Neat Image and Photoshop. We can use these tools to try and suppress the noise and bring out the finer qualities of the image. I believe that the fact that we can do this contributes to what I'd describe as the "ultra-realistic" tendency of digital photography. I think that "less is more" when it comes to modifying the image from the camera, but we do have to consider the target media. Particularly how the image may look as a thumbnail if we aim to publish on the Internet.
But we don't have to stop there. We can use these techniques to bring out latent qualities in the subjects that we photograph. I was looking at the detail of a patch of mica on a previous photograph and tried to imagine how it would look if it was beginning to melt (in my defence it had been a rather hot sunny day). So I polished the detail with Neat Image (effectively telling Neat Image that image detail was noise) and then added a plastic finish and enhanced contrast with Photoshop. I like the attached result but it may not be to everyone's taste.