I agree, it's not the process but the results.
'Realism' what ever that is, is only one way to judge a photograph, or any other work of art. Except for certain sub-specialities like photojournalism, a photographer should be able to use whatever tools and techniques he/she can muster to achieve or find a vision.
Art has always had a collection of 'schools' overlapping in time. Realism, the Hudson River school, Fauvism, Impressionism, Cubism all are different ways of expressing a visual representation of the artist's 'reality.'
Maybe photography has experienced this at a faster rate, since it's less than 200 years old, and the technology has moved from Niépce to Adobe. But painting has shown similar changes despite relatively stable technology.