Rose-Lynn Fisher: The Topography of Tears
I’ve been spending a lot of time on airplanes this year and I’m always struck by the topography below me, so in seeing Rose-Lynn Fisher’s aptly titled project and now book, The Topography of Tears, I am floored by our physical connectedness of the natural world. The Topography of Tears is published by Bellevue Literary Press and follows Rose-Lynn’s other foray into the macro world, Bees. The photographs in this series are delicate, fragile and quietly complex, not unlike the emotions that come with tears. As Rose-Lynn states: “For me, it was like looking at an aerial view of my emotional terrain. Yet the very nature of this terrain is intangible, and I began to see this series as an ephemeral atlas.” The work is profound in its beauty and in its revelatory offering of the landscape of feelings.
Rose-Lynn Fisher’s photography explores the continuum between the vast and tiny, in aerial and microscopic views. She is the author of Bee (Princeton Architectural Press), a study of the honeybee via SEM, and her new book, The Topography of Tears (Bellevue Literary Press). Her photographs have been featured by Harper’s, Smithsonian, New Yorker, Time, Wired, NPR, Black+White Photography, and elsewhere. Her work is exhibited in museums and festivals across the world, including Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and Museum of Science, Boston, among many others, and she’s represented by Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica. She received her BFA from Otis Art Institute and lives in Los Angeles. Complete details/info on her website
My wanderings in the microscopic realm continued on when I began photographing tears in 2008, during a period marked by loss and grief, at the cusp of personal changes. One day I suddenly wondered: what do tears actually look like? Would sad tears look any different from happy ones? So I saved some onto a glass slide and looked through my optical microscope, a vintage Zeiss with a mounted QImaging digital microscopy camera. It was one of those moments of “oh! ah!” that begins a new project, that blend of surprise and delight at the unexpected image that appears. For me, it was like looking at an aerial view of my emotional terrain. Yet the very nature of this terrain is intangible, and I began to see this series as an ephemeral atlas.
The microscope reveals a hint of the correspondence of forms in the unending complexity of nature that would otherwise remain unseen: from capillaries to lightning, from the fern-like branching patterns in a tear to the patterns of erosion in the earth. In this regard, whether looking at bees or bones or tears, it’s like access to a secret that is right here to be discovered everywhere around us.
I have saved and examined tears provoked by a wide range of emotions, my own and others, from watery eyes to onions, from laughter to remorse, gratitude to nervous exhaustion. There are many variables that influence the visual differences among the tear images: whether the tears were air-dried or compressed between glass, their liquid volume, chemistry, biology, environmental conditions, as well as microscope and camera settings.
The questions I had at the beginning have led to more questions. The idea that “the journey is the destination” is very true for me, especially in this project.
Tears are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness, independent of words or ideas in the immediacy of grief, catharsis, love; primal yet also nuanced. Shedding tears can be like shedding an old skin, yet they also unite and celebrate. We breathe, we laugh, we cry..
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