The Topography of Tears
The Topography of Tears is a visual investigation of tears photographed through a digital microscopy camera mounted on a vintage optical microscope. I started this project in 2008 during a pivotal period of my life, amid copious tears. There was a moment when I wondered if tears of joy would look any different than tears of grief. So I saved some tears on a glass slide and set out to explore them up close; I worked on this study for more than eight years.
The resulting series of hundreds of photomicrographs comprises my own and others’ tears, from elation to onions, as well as sorrow, frustration, rejection, resolution, laughing, yawning, birth and rebirth, among many others in the range of human emotion.
Many variables influence the diversity among these images: whether the tear was air-dried or compressed, the volume of tear fluid, chemical/biological variations, microscope and camera settings, and how I process and print the photograph. Other variables remain unknown; there is limited scientific data on the visual and chemical differences within emotional tears.
The random compositions I find in magnified tears often evoke a sense of place, like aerial views of emotional terrain. Although the empirical nature of tears is a composition of water, proteins, minerals, hormones, antibodies and enzymes, the topography of tears is a momentary landscape, transient as the fingerprint of someone in a dream. This series is like an ephemeral atlas.
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, intractable resistance short-circuited. 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.
© Rose-Lynn Fisher 2013-2018
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