Fariba Farshad, Founding Director, Photo London

Fariba Farshad was born in Iran and moved to Paris in 1983 and subsequently to London in 1986. Her 12 years at the London Institute, now the University of the Arts London, started 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 2008 show Whispered Secrets, Murmuring Dreams introduced many young contemporary Iranian artists to a Western audience. Her ground-breaking exhibition, Masques of Shahrazad (2009), showcased the work of three generations of Iranian women artists and toured internationally. Her most recent exhibition, Burnt Generation, which showcased life in Iran through the lens of eight major photographers, opened at Somerset House in 2014 and is currently touring globally. She led the development of the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, which opened in London in 2013. Along with Michael Benson, she is Co-Founder of Candlestar, a company that specialises in the creation and development of major new international cultural initiatives including the Gulf Art Fair (now Art Dubai) and the Prix Pictet.

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 Award 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.