The elements in an image are essentially any shape, color or positioning that "signifies." By signifies, I mean has meaning...often because of the options NOT taken. So, in image 1, I notice the following elements:
Once you have a sense of the formal elements in an image, you need to ask how they interact:
How is written text used (if it all)? none
Is the image part of a "genre"? war photography (realistic photojournalism)
If so, what expectations does the audience have about the genre? it puts "in the trenches"; the quality is usually very good and there's usually something interesting about the place ( a dessert, a jungle, etc), something that "tells the story" of where these soldiers are.
What are the "social relationships" depicted (or alluded to) in the image? soldiers are subject to bombardment and random death; they have to take it; sometimes, it's not a matter of courage/cowardice; they just wait and see. The relationship b/w the soldiers is not necessarily one of comradeship; they're all just stuck there.
Does the image's "rhetoric" about social identity (who we are, what we want) affirm the status quo or reject it? most war journalism is neither for or against war in the abstract; often it does show us the miserable side to war. this image is pretty much in keeping with the genre; it doesn't attempt to "say" something new except that perhaps it does offer the viewer a sense of claustrophobia and defenselessness.
What other contextual factors are relevant? i found the image on a Vietnam war photograph site. the image is for sell. so, some people find images of "real world" misery, especially when rendered beautifully, worthy of displaying as art objects. Not just as "record of the event": documentary. Knowing all this, I tend to RESIST the image's attempt to get me to appreciate it's formal elegance and aesthetic understatement.