The Universal Expressions

Psychologist, Paul Ekman, devoted much of his Life to the study of human facial expressions, eventually discovering that there seems to be seven universal expressions shown by all psychologically-sound humans, anywhere on the planet. It doesn’t matter if the subject was born blind (and so wouldn’t have been able to see and learn the expressions from other persons visually) or if the subject belongs to a remote group with limited access to other human groups. It would therefore seem these expressions are a biological inheritance. Certainly there are cultural ’emblems’, which are particular body-language cues displayed by members of distinct communities, and members of some cultures consciously try to suppress some expressions (Dr. Ekman’s research seems to show that Japanese persons, for example, suppress showing ‘Disgust’ when in the presence of others) but overall the seven universals seem to be true for everyone.

The seven universal expressions are Enjoyment (Happiness), Sadness, Disgust, Fear, Surprise, Anger and Contempt. Over the course of 2014, make-up artists, Kristin Jaggan and Asha Riley helped to recreate glam versions of these seven on our subjects, Anastasia Tomkin, Waheeda Muller, Shinelle Medina, Khadija Ponds and Dani Duran (names in no particular order). A big thank you to Phierce Plus for lending us accessories, to Nigel Huggins for photo-assisting, to Giorgio Gonzales for helping find subjects, and to Shauna Edghill, Adriana Ragoonanan and Alicia Mohammed for being such good sports and experimentees.



  • 2016-02-07 — Photograph of ‘Surprise’, originally portrayed by Anastasia Tomkin, replaced with an updated, and more accurate, photograph featuring Waheeda Muller.