To me photo retouching is in the details. The above photo was to be enlarged to be used in a museum exhibit. It was badly damaged and faded.
Because it was to be enlarged, every spec and spot would be magnified. I could have cropped the image on the right, but it would have cut off a quarter of the man on the right and made the image look odd.
I see a lot of old photos that are these softened images with vignettes like this (left) that remove all the character from the original image. The people end up with this out of focus, ghoulish quality to them.
I like to clean up the image and restore as much of the original quality and depth as I can.