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The Topography of Tears

August 29, 2014

The reasons for crying can be different. But do the different emotions that lead to tears make those tears look different, too?

BeeMicro-photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher is best known for her book Bee, a compilation of photographs of bees magnified anywhere from 10 times to 500 times. Among the remarkable things Fisher captured: that bees’ eyes are hexagonal, just like a honeycomb.

In 2013, she followed up hyper-magnified images of bees with hyper-magnified images of something even tinier and mysterious than the bee: human tears. It’s called The Topography of Tears.

The Topography of Tears

tearsFisher began the project in 2008, during a time when she was she was crying a lot due to lots of life changes and she had “a surplus of raw material.” She simply wondered one day what a tear looked like (very) up close. So, she caught one of her own tears on a slide, let it dry out, and then looked at it under a common microscope. She told Smithsonian that it looked like she was “looking down at a landscape from a plane.” That got her wondering if different tears looked different, say, like a tear a grief versus a tear of happiness, or even an onion tear.

Over the next few years, she collected and photographed microscopically blown-up tears of more than 100 people, including herself and a baby. Amazingly, they all look vastly different. Onion tears resemble snowflakes. Grief tears look like an aerial view of a sparsely developed city. Basal tears, the eye’s basic lubricating substance, look like tree branches.

See more at Fisher’s website.

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