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Fascinating Photos Reveal the Terrain of Microscopic Tears

Tears of Endings and Beginnings

About five years ago, photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher shed a lot of tears. There was loss and change going on in her life, but amazingly she was able to find inspiration through it all. Fisher had the thought, “I wonder what a tear looks like up close?” It became the catalyst for a year spent photographing 100 different types of them beneath a microscope for her series entitled The Topography of Tears.

Tears are broken up into three basic categories. Basal tears keep the eye lubricated, reflex tears are triggered by irritants (such as allergies), and psychic tears relate to emotion. They are composed of ingredients like oils, antibodies, and enzymes in salt water.

Fisher's study reveals the visual distinctions between tears. Cutting an onion yields a different result than those produced by laughter or grief. Her photographs are full of incredible details that make our dried waterworks look like tiny terrain. When viewing them this way, some areas appear densely populated while others are desolate. These images could be a metaphor for the passing of time. Tears don't last forever, and instead are fleeting landscapes that we travel in our lives.


Basal Tears


Laughing Tears


Onion Tears


Tears of Change


Tears of Grief

Rose-Lynn Fisher website
via [SNAP!]

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met and Manager of My Modern Met Store. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.

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