Fariba Farshad, Founding Director, Photo London
Fariba Farshad is co-Founder with Michael Benson of Candlestar, a company that specialises in the creation and development of major new international cultural initiatives including the Condé Nast College, Gulf Art Fair (now Art Dubai) and the Prix Pictet. In 2015 Candlestar inaugurated the first edition of Photo London and in four years the Fair has established itself as a key event in the international art world calendar.
Fariba began her career at the London Institute, now the University of the Arts London, in 1991 when she took up the post of Principal Lecturer in computer design. In 1997 she spearheaded the development of the IT Research and Development Unit, the centre for research in the application of technology in the arts and art education. As a curator and pioneer of creative education, she has been responsible for developing ground-breaking projects, which established the Unit as of centre of excellence for the innovative use of digital media. This brought her many awards, including a BAFTA nomination, during a key period at the University of the Arts.
She is renowned as a champion of the work of contemporary Iranian artists. Her ground-breaking exhibition Burnt Generation showcased life in Iran through the lens of eight major photographers, and opened at Somerset House in 2014 and is still touring globally.
Michael Benson, Founding Director, Photo London
Michael Benson’s career in education and the arts spans over 20 years. He is an award-winning writer and a film producer – his videos with Gustav Metzger and John Berger were released in 2003 and 2004 respectively. For ten years he worked at the London Institute, now the University of the Arts in London, where he was responsible for developing the London Institute Gallery where he built an exhibition programme showcasing the work of outstanding students alongside leading contemporary artists, designers and photographers including Julian Opie, Richard Deacon, Nicola Hicks, Mike Leigh and Tom Hunter. He led the campaign to secure a new home for Chelsea School of Arts at Millbank, and uniting the various faculties under the name of the University of the Arts. In addition he developed Signatures of the Invisible, a major touring exhibition in collaboration with CERN.
With Fariba Farshad he founded Candlestar in 2003. He is Director of Prix Pictet, the international photography prize founded by Pictet Group in 2008, for which he has curated over 50 exhibitions worldwide. Between 2011-2014 he also curated the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition. He is a member of the board of the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.