We cry for various reasons: happiness, sadness, cutting onions. But almost invariably, we wipe away those tears or they are otherwise dried up, washed away or discarded. But photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher decided to do just the opposite in her latest project, Topography of Tears. As Smithsonian’s blog details, Fisher was curious to see what tears looked like up close, and so she caught one on a slide and realized it wasn’t unlike looking at a landscape from above, with veiny rivers, craggy mountains, and rolling valleys.
The tears we shed are pretty definitively human—very few, if any, other animals cry for emotional reasons. In addition to tears that result from crying, our ducts also produce basal and reflex tears. The first of which keep your eyeballs moist, and the latter is caused by things like the aforementioned onions, pepper spray, or other irritants.
Over the course of multiple years, Fisher photographed more than 100 tears from herself and others—including a newborn baby. You can read more about the project here, and explore Fisher’s other work that features images such as microscope images of bees and bones here.