A variety of emotions and circumstances can bring humans to tears. A bride walking down the aisle to meet her husband cries tears of joy. A chef cutting an onion cries basal tears. The memory of a lost loved one can cause tears of grief. About five years ago, “during a period of copious tear, amid lots of change and loss,” photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher caught one of her tears, dried it on a glass slide and examined it under the microscope. She began to wonder if all of the types of tears are the same on a microscopic level and through a project she calls the Topography of Tears, where she collected, dried, and photographed over 100 samples of tears, she shows that they are not.
While scientists might not value the results of her study due to the fact that the crystallization of salt can be vastly different under slightly different situations, the topographic images, like an aerial view from an airplane over a strange land, is quite remarkable to see. Scientifically sound or not, this tear study is visually beautiful. Fisher explains:
Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as a rite of passage. They are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness. Wordless and spontaneous, they release us to the possibility of realignment, reunion, catharsis: shedding tears, shedding old skin. It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.
Check out more images from this series as well as other work by Rose-Lynn Fisher on her website.