I thought to try at an example. Recently someone pointed at a website of an icelandic photographer. There are images of Siberia. Two images in particular came to mind when thinking about the criteria. Siberia_014
It is an image of a local, who seems to straighten up for a formal picture. The photographer fortunately had the wits (or training) to also shoot the important moments before and/or after the formal shots.
It is clear that the image is competently photographed. It seems to be correctly exposed. What appears to be the subject is sharp and in focus, and the supporting elements are reasonably sharp but not distracting.
There is an unambiguous subject, the remaining elements are clearly background support or context definition. At first glance I thought there may have been some excess information at the sides. The junk to the left is at the verge of being distracting, but I later realized it strengthens the narrative and metaphor.
The context is clear and supports that subject. The lining provides depth, points directly at the subject etc... The beam that directly crosses the person's neck would normally be disastrous, in this case I believe it supports the narrative perfectly.
It clearly is a weathered local which belongs in this environment which displays the same weathering. Both in the elements as in the clouds. (The elements therefore need to be reasonably sharp). If you take the person in this pose, and put him in a different context like the californian beach, it wouldn't work. If you say this is in Siberia, it is believable, if you say this is in New York...
This clearly tells a story of what someone living in this environment may look like. It also shows that regardless of environment or origin, people have a universal dignity and pride. It is easy to empathize with the person (or the photographer). There is a clear relation between the person and the environment. The person seems to straighten his shirt, trying to button the shirt at a point that has never been buttoned but on the rarest occasion.
The entire image shows a casual, weathered environment with a weathered person that completely blends in, and even so he is self-conscious in trying to straighten up with a kind of vanity that he doesn't need at all. The casual junk on the left points straight at the neck button struggle. This person is not comfortable with a tight buttoned shirt, and clearly doesn't need dressing up to retain his dignity and stature in this environment. It is unnatural, for this naturally casual, weathered person to be formal in this casual, weathered environment.
Mind you, I don't want to be too strict about the rules or criteria, and I don't know whether the photographer actually intended this interpretation, but it is just that this image depicts the criteria in one way or another, and does so brilliantly, and is very complete in all its elements. It is this sense of completeness that I am trying to describe and formalize.
if I would be an aspiring photographer with an artistic ambition, this would be the type of image I would like to produce, preferably with predetermination, but if this can be done intuitively, why not.
Note that the next Siberia image, with the 2 kids next to a waterpump, almost completely fails the criteria. I'll try to formalize later, but I would suggest to see if you also intuitively "feel" there is something missing or something wrong with that image.