“Lacrimosa”: A new iconography of crying

In the ambitious “Lacrimosa” project, Sasha creates conceptual portraits by using a Nomarski Interference Microscope to take pictures of his own tears and those of others, among them his family and friends and public figures such as the cyclist Alberto Contador, the ex-minister Leire Pajín, the singer Monica Naranjo and the actress Paula Echevarría. The artist uses this procedure to allow weeping, as a metaphor for the irrational in human beings, to imbue the scientific imaginary with a poetic sort of autobiographical, emotional nuance.

It is of course the case that crying is innate to our species, and it can be prompted by a range of causes, from the need of newborn infants to communicate non-verbally, to tears triggered by an irritating agent like the onion, that old standby, or even by tear gas.  However, the main origin of tears tends to be emotional, and herein lays the fact that has always awakened the greatest interest among philosophers and thinkers, as this emotional perspective constitutes a distinctive trait that is specific to humans.

Crying is a complex phenomenon that is characterized by the secretion of tears, which vary in their composition, both from one person to another and depending on what caused them. In the first place, it is important to consider natural biochemical components related to age, sex, health, diet, medication, exposure to pollutants and many other characteristics that are specific to each individual. However, the origin of tears must also be taken into account, as the substances that are found when analyzing tears of emotion differ from those in tears of physiological origin. Recent studies have confirmed that of these two sorts of tears, the former have increased levels of elements like potassium and magnesium and also display variations in the concentration of proteins and certain hormones like prolactin.

It is worth highlighting that while the technique used to create these photographs provides them with the tint of colored light that allows for a choice as to the overall profile of the tear and produces variations resulting from differences in the width, composition, topology and density of the sample tear, the artist has not altered the images digitally, which is to say that the power of the light is the only cognitive force at work.

As a result, each of the images in this series is unique and unrepeatable, because the dry residue of the tear sample is different for each individual. Thus, the psychological stimulus plays a fundamental role in determining the appearance of each of these portraits. This is how the forms and textures of the graphical landscape come to serve as a means of conveying the feelings and energies associated with the human who produced these tears, with each picture synthesizing our capacity for affect and emotion and incorporating within it the mysterious microcosm of the universal, cathartic experience that is crying.

Sasha R. Gregor’s photographs here serve as a means to delve toward a deeper knowledge of the mysteries of humans’ internal and external worlds, extrapolating the virtues and procedures of the scientific method to the field of creative expression in visual arts, thanks to the photographic medium’s power to make visible what was once invisible. The work transports us across our prior thresholds of perception to free us from our traditional view of things, and in so doing it makes plain the grandeur to be found in small things. It harnesses the expressive force that comes from creating photographic forms that are free of the constraints of mimesis in their visual representation.

Ricard Guixà, 2015