Happy tears, sad tears, onion-chopping tears… getting a bit watery-eyed is a perfectly natural part of life, but it turns out that it's pretty darn artistic too.
Dutch artist Maurice Mikkers, who also happens to be a medical laboratory analyst, shed a few tears one day after stubbing his toe, and decided to check out the results under a microscope.
He was so chuffed with what he saw that he set out to create a full series of microscope-based photos of tears, from his own tears and those of willing volunteers.
He's dubbed the series The Imaginarium Of Tears, and it's very impressive.
Maurice says he didn't notice much difference between the microscopic look of say, the tears he cried while chopping onions and the tears a friend with an ill father had cried – but notes that each tear was still uniquely different because of the "oils, enzymes and antibodies" that formed it.
However another similar experiment last year did show up some interesting results. When examined in closer detail, it seems that our tears do vary somewhat depending on the reasons behind them.
Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher studied the composition of 100 different tears for her exhibition The Topography of Tears and discovered that basal tears (the ones that our body produces to lubricate our eyes) are drastically different from the tears that happen when we are chopping onions.
Similarly, tears of laughter have a very different make-up than tears of sorrow. Again, this could be down to the molecular make-up of each tear, or could be due to other external factors.
"There are so many variables—there’s the chemistry, the viscosity, the setting, the evaporation rate and the settings of the microscope," Jospeh Stromberg of the Smithsonian’s Collage of Arts and Sciences told Lifebuzz of Fisher's work.
Fascinating – and pretty beautiful too.