Bob Harper is a fitness expert and heart attack survivor who used his photography skills to showcase his Survivors Have Heart Second Chance Portraits exhibit at the Flatiron Plaza. The photos were displayed for thousands of New Yorkers to see and learn about the survivors raising awareness about heart attacks, community, and second chances.
Survivors Have Heart is a national program to help communities across the United States in creating a supportive environment for survivors and their loved ones to overcome physical and emotional aspects of their post-heart attack journey. Their mission is to “empower survivors, their families, and their friends every step of the way.”
Harper survived a shocking heart attack that occurred while he was at the gym in 2017. Ever since joining the program, he committed to helping his fellow survivors to find purpose in their journey and live their healthiest lives.
“I decided to lean into this and see what I can do to help people during this challenging time,” said Harper. “For myself, my job has always been to help people and I decided, this could be a way that I help people in a completely different way.”
Harper reunited with heart attack survivors from all over the country who he has helped throughout the years. Survivors Have Heart, helped them create a special bond as they went through the program together. “We all kind of involved together, we laugh together, and we cry together,” said Harper. “This special photoshoot was a chance to tell their heart attack story and how this program helped them move forward in life.”
The black and white portraits include survivors and a self-portrait of Harper. Along with their portraits, it showcases each individual survivor’s story and a small portrait with Harper. Behind the camera, Harper captured each individual showing characteristics of strength, confidence, and ambition. People can look at these portraits like Tamikia (one of the survivors), and see a strong African American woman, who is ready to take on any life challenges that may come her way.
“I have been working on it for four years because I have been working with Survivors Have Heart, for this time really built this whole community with heart attack survivors,” said Harper. “What we decided to do this year was put me behind the camera because I am also a photographer and take these portraits of fellow heart attack survivors. To show people that if you do survive a heart attack that there is life after that. You can actually not only survive but thrive.”
The purpose to have a photography exhibit in showcasing the survivor’s portraits is to help challenge the traditional perceptions of heart attack survivors. It is important for the survivors to share their stories to give hope to other survivors or the people around them that suffering a heart attack doesn’t mean their lives have to stop.
“It was important to share it because a major cardiac event like a widowmaker heart attack like I had. A lot of people probably feel like it is the end of their life. It’s over! I can’t do anything I use to do and the reason I want to share my story is that I am still a commercial pilot, an official score for the NBA Charlotte Hornets, and I still play golf. I do the exact same things as before the day I found myself in a helicopter,” said Mike, one of the survivors.
Survivors Have a Heart’s website is full of many inspiring survivors’ stories and more information about signs, risks, statistics of heart attacks, and how to join this supportive community. What Harper wants people to know about is that heart attacks happen to anybody no matter how active or non-active they are.
“Now, realizing because I have been informed is that we are all at risk. For me having a heart attack, you need to know what your health is from the inside out,” said Harper. “If you have genetics issues, family issues like I do which I was unaware of. You got to be able to sit down with your doctor, know how to ask the right questions, and ask the wrong questions so your health care provider can lead you in the right direction.”
For more information about Survivors Have Heart visit Survivorshaveheart.com or follow their Instagram page @survivorshaveheart
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.