About Candlestar

About Candlestar

Founded in 2003 Candlestar has built an exceptional reputation in the field education and the arts – particularly, in recent years, in photography . From the outset Candlestar has excelled in developing and delivering innovative projects for a wide range of clients including the Sovereign Group, Leicester Haymarket Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Frieze, Art Dubai and the University of Creative Arts.

In 2013 we played a key role in the development of the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design and, five year prior to that in 2008, we inaugurated the Prix Pictet on behalf of the Pictet Group.  In the intervening years the Prix Pictet has become the world’s leading award for photography and sustainability, reaching an audience of over 400 million people worldwide through over 80 exhibitions in 54 different cities.

As well as curating exhibitions for Pictet and other clients we have intimated our own exhibitions. Most notably Burnt Generation which opened at Somerset House in early 2014 and has toured the world. Burnt Generation was shortlisted for a Global Fine Art Award in 2016.

In 2015 Candlestar launched Photo London, a major international photography fair. Each May, Photo London brings up to 100 of the world’s leading photography galleries to Somerset House while delivering a critically acclaimed Public Programme of talks, commissioned installations and exhibitions. Attracting almost 40 thousand visitors annually, Photo London has established itself as an unmissable date in the cultural calendar.

Fariba Farshad, Founder, Candlestar / 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 Condé Nast College of Fashion and the Prix Pictet, the global photography prize.  In 2015, Candlestar inaugurated the first edition of Photo London and in five years, the Fair has established itself as a key event in the international art world calendar.

Fariba’s academic career begins at UAL, 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, Founder, Candlestar / Photo London 

Michael Benson’s career in education and the arts spans almost 30 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, and his book 1000Years1000Words won a D&AD in 2001. 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 next to the Tate Gallery at Millbank. In addition, he worked with a twelve of Europe’s leading contemporary artists to develop Signatures of the Invisible, a major touring exhibition in collaboration with CERN,Geneva. The tour ended with a major exhibition at PS1 MoMA in 2002.

With Fariba Farshad he founded the cultural consultancy Candlestar in 2003. Since then Candlestar has created projects for many leading organisations in the arts and education. In 2015, with the support of the FT and Maja Hoffman’s LUMA Foundation, Candlestar inaugurated the first edition of Photo London and in five years, the Fair has established itself as a key event in the international art world calendar.

He is Director of Prix Pictet, the international photography prize founded by Pictet Group in 2008, for which he has curated over 90 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.


Photograph: Daniel Beltrá, Oil Spill #4: Oil mixed with dispersant rises up to the surface near one of the relief wells, 18 May 2010, Gulf of Mexico, United States, Series: Spill