The Topography of Tears
Project info

Topography of tears is a study of my own and others’ tears photographed through an optical microscope with a mounted digital microscopy camera, at 100x magnification. The series comprises a wide range of tears, from gratitude to onions, remorse, grief, elation, moments of birth and rebirth, and many more. I began this project in 2008, and it culminated in a book published in 2017.

These images often evoke a sense of place, like aerial views of emotional terrain - momentary landscapes compiling an ephemeral atlas.

I’m often struck by the similarities in form that are repeated at every scale in nature. Patterns of erosion etched into earth over millennia can resemble the branched or crystalline forms in an evaporated tear that occurred in a moment.

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. Tears spontaneously 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.