No general discussion about how to read photographs can do much more than scratch the surface of individual images and what they mean. And whilst in documentary photography the objective is to depict an actual (real-life) story, clearly and unambiguously. the image shown here belongs to a different school of photography where reality is merely a point of departure for a journey into the imagination. What was really happening here is of no importance to us. But what this image suggests to each individual who sees it enlists that individual in the process of creation.
The ingredients of this image are: two people, a building in the background and scratches. One of the two people is closer to camera, seems taller and we cannot see his or her face. As for the other, shorter, more distant person, all we can see is her face. The expression on her face is important. The juxtaposition between the two characters is important. Are they a couple? Has he (assuming that the closer figure is a man) told her that he is leaving her. The building in the background could be the apartment complex where they currently live together. The scratches suggest that their relationship is damaged.
It is true that one could take almost any image comprising a group of visual elements and manufacture a story out of them. Does that make the image a good photograph? No. So what else must an image have to rise above the mediocre?
This is the question that I am still struggling to answer.