The Topography of Tears

The Topography of Tears is a study of 100 tears photographed through an optical microscope. The project began in a period of personal change, loss, and copious tears. One day I wondered if my tears of grief would look any different from my tears of happiness - and I set out to explore them up close, using tools of science to make art and to ponder 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, each a tiny history.

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 chemistry 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.

I’m pleased if my artwork has something to add to a larger conversation, and if public interest helps motivate scientific inquiry that ultimately leads to deeper insight about the language and content of our tears. Then it's the best meeting of art and science. I'm not making any scientific claims in my work though, nor any declarations about anything except perhaps the poetry of life.

© Rose-Lynn Fisher 2013-2015



Links to Selected Press
Online, Print & Blogs:

Sabato (Belgium)

Madame Le Figaro (France)

Die Welt (Germany)

Polka Magazine (France)


The New Yorker

Smithsonian Magazine

Harper's Magazine

Observatoire de L'Art Contemporain (France)

Zeit Wissen Magazine (Germany)

National Geographic (Hungary)

Studio 360

De Redactie (Belgium)

Crikey (Australia)

Men's Health (Australia)

In Vivo Magazine (Switzerland)

Esquire, Russia

Design Observer


The Guardian (UK)

The Telegraph (UK)

Metro World News

Metro Nieuws (NL)

YLE News (Finland)

Garbo (Romania)

O Globo (Brazil)

Psychologies Magazine (France)

Popcorn (France)

Tout Comprendre (France)

Welt der Wunder (Germany)

National Geographic Kids:
Weird But True

Illustreret Videnskab /Science Illustrated (Scandinavia)

Medical Daily

Ignite Channel

The Paris Review

Milano Free (Italy)

Galileo (Italy)

Caffeinamagazine (Italy)

Spaghetti Mag. (Italy)

Artinfinit (Moldova)


PBS Nova blog

MSNBC Maddow blog/Geek

Popular Science blog

Scientific American blog

The Daily Meal

Times of Malta



Lost at E Minor



Design Catwalk

La boite verte (France)

Linkiesta (Italy)

Lifo (Greece)

20 Minutos (Spain)

ABC (Spain)

Dan Tri (Vietnam)

La Nacion (Argentina)

YCWB (China)

The Good Men Project



Kindred Subjects

John Culbert - Geometry of tears

La/crime/ndays, by G.Iorio



The Topography of Tears

images and text © 2013-2015 Rose-Lynn Fisher all rights reserved

Medium: Archival pigment prints

Tears of laughing till I'm crying © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of change © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of grief © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Onion tears © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Convergence of wonders © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Watering eyes: a micro climate © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of timeless reunion © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of ending and beginning © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears for those who yearn for liberation © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of release © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of possibility and hope © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of elation at a liminal moment © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of remembrance © 2013 Rose-Lynn Fisher

As a book of these images takes shape, please let me know of your interest by emailing a quick note to

Many thanks and best wishes from Rose-Lynn