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Just as snowflake flakes have different shapes under a microscope, human tears have a completely different appearance, which is explained by the different emotions under the influence of which they appeared.
Scientists have determined that each tear has a different viscosity and composition, but all tears contain biochemicals such as oils, antibodies, enzymes, etc. found in salt water. How is the composition of these substances reflected in the pattern of tear crystals? This is the answer Dutch photographer Maurice Mickers is trying to find.
Collecting tears and presenting unique beauty on a micro level is what Mick is doing. Until 2007 he worked as an analyst in a pharmaceutical laboratory and then studied interactive media design at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. Combining art and science, he uses microphotographs to present images under a microscope as a series of beautiful stories.
In 2014, Mick accidentally kicked a table leg and the pain in his toe made him cry. He does not know where he got the idea to examine these tears under a microscope. He used a pipette to collect a large tear that was rolling down his cheek due to the intense pain. Under a microscope, he observed the formation of crystals of this tear.
Since then, Mick has not only studied his own tears under a microscope, but has also collected the tears of countless people. Friends who cried because their parents were seriously ill, sisters who were humiliated by their bosses in the workplace, and others who were willing to do their part.
This is not a scientific study and unlike the medical experiments he has done before, but an exploratory journey full of imagination and inspiration.
“I was so busy researching the crystallization of prescription drugs, food, etc. that I never knew that tears could be so beautiful,” says Mickers.
“That said, I hope to start writing a book,” he continues. Mick examined the differences between several types of tears under a microscope and found that the focus should be on the stories behind the tears. Mickers says:
“Normally people are not used to crying in public and don’t want others to see their tears, but with the Imaginarium of Tears photo project, we can open up to the outside world.”
Science currently believes that there are three types of tears. The first type of tears occur when we stare directly at a fan for 60 seconds without blinking.
In this case, tears automatically flow out, which is the main type of tears. The next type is tears shed while cutting onions and stimulated by smoke. These are conditioned reflex tears. And the third type is tears shed because of such emotions as excitement, sadness and happiness.
Mick was pleasantly surprised to find that under a powerful microscope, one could see how the tears took on different shapes during the crystallization process, and different types of tears could be distinguished.
“Every tear has water, lipids, glucose, urea, sodium, potassium, oil, salt, minerals,” he said, “because each of us is unique and different, doing different things. It also makes each tear unique.”
Since March 2015, he has been inviting new friends to participate in the project to “make them cry” one by one.
The hardest part was getting people to cry on the spot, which took longer than expected. The process of tear crystallization takes from 5 to 30 minutes. In the same year, he published a series of photographs with microscopic images on Facebook called Tears and Microimages.
The video has gone viral on social media. And the photographer was invited to share his ideas in a famous TED public talk.
“Just like it’s worth sharing ideas, I believe it’s worth shedding tears,” he said.
In 2017, Mick successfully developed a tear collection package, hoping to allow more people to collect tears and submit them to a database for inductive analysis of similarities and differences. He also set out to explore the “fractals” of tears and find a way to interpret the information received.
“I am fascinated by the microscopic world of tears because there is a very deep connection between tears and their unique stories,” says the photographer. “By sharing our tears, we can discover microscopic worlds and understand each other more deeply.”
He also said:
“The unique landscape in the microscopic world of tears strikes me every time. This is a new experience. I want to delve deeper into this topic, learn more and understand where the future will take me.”
Mick is not alone in being fascinated by microscopic tears. Rose-Lynn Fisher, a photographer based in Los Angeles, USA, lost a loved one in 2008 and fell into depression. She often cried. And she had a strange idea: what will happen if you photograph tears under a microscope? Are the tears different every time?
She photographed tears under a microscope in a crystalline state, after the water evaporated from them. It looked like the effect of erosion on the Earth over millions of years. This excited her so much that she took 100 photographs of the tear samples and published the photobook Topography of Tears.
The study by Maurice Mickers and Rose-Lynn Fisher also reminds people of the late Dr. Emoto Katsuya. He collected water samples under various conditions, placed them in a refrigerator at a temperature of minus 5 degrees, and then, using a powerful microscope, took pictures at the moment when the water was about to melt.
The work “Water Knows the Answer”, which includes 122 photographs, shows the influence of human thoughts, music and other factors on the manifestation of water crystals. This work makes people think: do inorganic substances really have no soul?
In the East, more than 2,500 years ago, Buddha Shakyamuni said: “There are three thousand great worlds in one grain of sand.” It seems that not only in one grain of sand there are three thousand worlds, but in every teardrop and drop of water there are endless secrets.
Are you also wondering how wonderful your tears look under the microscope? What kind of world would that be?