The Topography of Tears
The Topography of Tears is a study of tears photographed through an optical microscope. I started this project in 2008, in a moment of many tears and a sudden curiosity: I wondered, what do tears actually look like? Do happy tears look any different than sad tears? So I set out to explore them up close, using tools of science to make art and to contemplate personal and aesthetic questions.
Years later, this series comprises a wide range of my own and others’ tears, from elation to onions, as well as sorrow, frustration, rejection, resolution, laughing, yawning, birth and rebirth, and many more.
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.
Roaming microscopic vistas, I marvel at the visual similarities between micro and macro realms, how the patterning of nature seems so consistent, regardless of scale. Patterns of erosion etched into earth over millions of years may look quite similar to the branched crystalline patterns of an evaporated tear that took less than a minute to occur.
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.
These images of tears are reflections of their chemical composition; yet what is it that accounts for all their visual differences? Early questions remain unanswered, requiring a level of scientific research that remains to be done. For me, it's the question that launches the journey. What I find along the way is the adventure. Rather than drawing conclusions, my exploration of tears has instead led me deeper into the intangible poetry of life. Coming full circle, the more tears I look at, the more I marvel at what they evoke on their own terms - and willingly abide in the unknowable.
© Rose-Lynn Fisher 2013-2017
all rights reserved
Bellevue Literary Press
Links to Selected Press
Online, Print & Blogs: