It turns out, not all tears are the same. Artist Rose-Lynn Fisher discovered this after taking a microscope to her tears and examining and documenting the differences between them. 
"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." Fisher writes on her website
It turns out, the tears our bodies produce vary greatly in composition and in microscopic appearance depending on what is causing them. The photographs that Fisher has captured demonstrate the variants in tears in beautiful fashion. From tears of joy to onion tears, each tear tells a different story that says something different about the human experience. Fisher calls the project, "The Topography of Tears."

Laughing Until You Cry Tears

Tears of Change

Tears of grief

There's a science to this phenomenon. There are three basic kinds of tears that we all produce. Basal tears are produced continuously in our eyes to keep them lubricated, reflex tears which flush out external irritants, and then psychic (or emotional) tears. There is evidence that suggests there are chemical differences between these tears. For instance, research indicates that psychic or emotional tears contain high elements of stress hormones. This phenomenon could perhaps explain why crying makes us feel better since it's our body's way of shedding excess hormones. 

Onion tears

Onion tears
via Rose-Lynn Fisher


Lubricating basal tears

Lubricating basal tears
via Rose-Lynn Fisher
The project took years to complete and Fisher collected over 100 tears from herself as well as a few other volunteers. Tears from a newborn baby were even collected as part of the project. 

Convergence of wonders


Convergence of wonders
via Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of a timeless reunion

Tears of a timeless reunion
via Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of ending and beginning

Tears of ending and beginning
via Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears for those who yearn for liberation


Tears for those who yearn for liberation
via Rose-Lynn Fisher
All tears contain the same essential building blocks—oils, enzymes, and antibodies that are suspended in a salt water solution. Each tear, however, contains differing amounts of these elements, and salt molecules can crystallize in unique formations. This means that two tears stimulated by the same trigger could look radically different. 

Tears of release

Tears of release
via Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of possibility and hope

Tears of possibility and hope
via Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of remembrance 

Tears of remembrance
via Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of elation at a liminal moment

Tears of elation at a liminal moment
via Rose-Lynn Fisher
Fisher writes, "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. The 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 carries a microcosm of the human experience, like one drop of an ocean." 
Main and collage image via Pan Xunbin / Shutterstock