On T.O.P. Roger Overall has written an articled titled Photography vs. Image-making. He talks about heavily manipulated images such as the one you see here and asks the following questions:
What exactly is a photograph these days[*]? Should we make a distinction between photography and image-making? If so, where exactly do we place the divide?
The first step to answering those questions is to look at the two fundamental categories of art, which are (1) additive and (2) subtractive.
Arts such as drawing and painting are additive. The artist starts with a blank piece of paper and only what he decides to add to that paper will appear in the final result. His creative process is one of deciding what to include in his piece of art.
Photography is subtractive. The photographer starts with the huge world that is all around him and decides which part of it is going to appear in his photo. His creative process consists of deciding what to exclude from his final result, and whatever he does not exclude will appear in his photo.
If a photographer clones a distracting element out of a photo that is a subtractive action and he’s operating within the photographic paradigm. If that same photographer adds something to the photo – as seen on the right – he’s moving out of the photographic paradigm and into that of the traditional arts.
To answer the question, the division between “photography and image-making†” is the division between additive and subtractive art. Roger also asks if we should make such a distinction, and images such as the one you see here indicate that making such a distinction is futile because the creativity that is built into humans drives some of them to start in one paradigm and end in another.
* Strictly speaking, an image made with a digital camera isn’t a photograph: it’s a reprograph.
† Photography is image-making (not “taking”), so in this context I would prefer to say “digital art”.