These are pictures of different dried human tears captured by photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher: grief, laughter, onion and change. Each type of tear contains different chemical makeup which makes them look different under the microscope.
Scientifically, tears are divided into three different types, based on their origin. Psychic tears are triggered by extreme emotions and they include tears of grief and joy. Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities 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 selection of biological elements (including oils, antibodies and enzymes) suspended in salt water, but as Fisher saw, tears from each of the different categories include distinct molecules as well. For instance, emotional tears have been found to contain protein-based hormones including the neurotransmitter leucine enkephalin, a natural painkiller that is released when the body is under stress.
“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.”