Topography of Tears

Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher captures tears of grief, joy, laughter and irritation in extreme detail.

The make up of our tears changes depending on our emotions.

She captured the beautiful images using an electron microscope, which revealed that tears from grief and joy contain vastly different chemicals. She gives us an unexpected view of dried human tears.

Closely studying tears for so long has made Fisher think of them as far more than a salty liquid we discharge during difficult moments. “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,” she says. “It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.”

Topography of tears



Scientifically, tears are divided into three different types, based on their origin. Both tears of grief and joy are psychic tears, triggered by extreme emotions, whether positive or negative.

Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities (on average, 0.75 to 1.1 grams over a 24-hour period) to keep the cornea lubricated.

Reflex tears are secreted in response to an irritant, like dust, onion vapors or tear gas.

All tears contain a variety of biological substances (including oils, antibodies and enzymes) suspended in salt water. Tears from each of the different categories include distinct molecules as well.

Source:  Smithsonian Magazine 

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