The photographer Rankin is spearheading a campaign to use a social media symbol to raise awareness of heart disease after being inspired by his own personal experience.
The “Heart for a Heart” campaign, created for World Heart Day, is a response to the fact that every three minutes someone dies from heart or circulatory disease in the UK. Its aim is to get people who spend their days tapping the heart symbol on Instagram and Twitter to instead design their own heart-inspired artwork and post it on social media on World Heart Day, on Friday.
Rankin, who suffered from a heart condition as a child, and whose father died from a heart condition 12 years ago, has created images and asked some of his favourite artists, photographers and creatives to do the same.
“You have great artwork to inspire everybody,” he said. “Everyone can draw a heart, it’s one of the simplest symbols to draw and it works across all cultures and languages. The heart is the universal symbol. It can be romantic, it can be broken, it can be used on T-shirts to profess a love for a city. And, in recent years, it is synonymous with social media. The team and I wanted to make that mean something.”
Among those participating are actors Gillian Anderson, Carey Mulligan and Anna Friel; fashion designers Issey Miyake and Christopher Bailey of Burberry; singer Sharleen Spiteri and model Jack Guinness.
Images include simple sketches, paintings, selfies and photographs of heart-shaped objects such as cherries and leaves.
Rankin said: “I have created lots of images. I am an absolute obsessive about the heart so I have always created little hearts in my work as a symbol. I just love the symbol.”
That love, plus his own experiences with heart disease, led him to instigate the campaign, teaming up with the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
“My father was very traditional, working-class Scottish and didn’t really look after himself,” he said. “I had a weird heart condition when I was a child: I had a racing heart, I got very bad palpitations. My mother said I was in the Lancet because they cured it. My parents said I should look after myself, my heart, even though they didn’t look after themselves.”
Rankin, whose photographic subjects have ranged from the Queen to Madonna, said he had suffered high blood pressure as an adult and had made lifestyle changes in response. He has since starting running and turned vegetarian last year.
“I am not an expert,” he said. “I just think it’s important to research these things for yourself. I am definitely a short, fat, very unhealthy bloke so if I can do a little bit, then everybody can do it. This is a fun way of going, ‘It’s important to look after yourself,’ and I like the idea of a social media conceit that is not just liking something.”
The photographer and the BHF are asking people to upload their artwork to social media on Friday using the hashtag #heartforaheart, tagging @TheBHF.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the charity, said: “Too many lives are lost to these terrible conditions each year, but through our vital research we are determined to end this devastation. It’s fantastic to have the support of Rankin, and all of these incredible artists on World Heart Day, helping us to keep more hearts beating.”