Evanescent light (which decays quickly in one spatial dimension) has properties that make it useful (or potentially useful) for a variety of studies in cell biology. In fluorescence excitation, evanescence constitutes basis of the familiar TIRF illumination. The unique polarization properties of TIRF can report on deformations in the cell membrane; examples are given during the dynamic process of secretion. In fluorescence emission, evanescence constitutes the basis of the fluorophore near-field. By capturing that near field, images of surface-proximal fluorophores can be recorded. Point-by-point measurement of near field /far field ratios can provide absolute distances of fluorophores to a surface and in principle, pseudo-images of these distances could be reconstructed by scanning.