We make the mistake to think photography represents reality, we want to believe that.
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7
If we satisfy ourselves with the idea that a 2 dimensional, frozen-in-time moment, cropped vision of an event/place is depiction of reality, sooner or later we probably will find disappointment.
If we accept that photography is an interpretation at best and deceit at worse in showing us a snippet of reality then we are closer to its concept.
Anything else is make-believe, including the emotion that we create around a poignant image.
Two images, taken moments apart. Two different messages.
Are they real? they are real to me where real is used as believable.
But no image is real, and all are.
If one looks at them at a philosophical level, yes all images do exist, but do they represent reality? They can't, as mentioned earlier, reality is not a two dimensional print or screen display; it's just make-belief.
If we grew up understanding that photographs represent reality than probably we can satisfy our mind when seeing an image. We can create a story around it, feel an emotion, or none of it.
In the end images are nothing but triggers for our brain to believe what we want.
As Galen Rowell said so well before: "One of the biggest mistakes a photographer can make is to look at the real world and cling to the vain hope that next time his film will somehow bear a closer resemblance to it" - Galen Rowell