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Is there (intended to be) a 1:1 mapping between the messages and native API? So, I could use the Rendering module from my own application?

No, the messaging API is never going to be as powerful as the C++ API.

Where is the documentation for how to use the messages?

The documentation you linked to is for the message definitions, but unfortunately, as mentioned here, we don't have dedicated documentation about all the topics available on Gazebo. You can use the gz topic command line tool to inspect the topics available at runtime though, like gz topic -l, gz topic -i...)

I'd like to use Gazebo to visualise a camera calibration problem

For this kind of custom visualization, you may be interested in markers. You can check the gz marker -h tool and this standalone example.