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

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, and the Prix Pictet. 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 began her career at the University of the Arts London (UAL), in 1991 when she took up the post of Principal Lecturer in computer design. In 1995 she launched N’Touch, the first online fashion magazine. In 1997 she spearheaded the development of the University’s first Innovation Centre for Arts and Technology (CAT). As a curator and pioneer of creative education, she has been responsible for developing ground-breaking projects that established the CAT as a centre of excellence for the innovative use of digital media in art and design education. This brought her many awards, including a BAFTA nomination.

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. The show opened at Somerset House in 2014 and is still touring globally. Recent venues have included the Museum of War, Calgary (Canada); MoPA Chicago; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University; UNC Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Michael Benson, Founder, Candlestar

Michael Benson’s career in education and the arts spans over 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. For ten years he worked at the University of the Arts in London (UAL), 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 international touring exhibition in collaboration with CERN that completed its run with a major show at PS1/MoMA in 2003.

A writer and film producer, his book 1000 years,1000 words won a prestigious D&AD yellow pencil. His play Life’s A Monkey was performed at London’s Cochrane Theatre in 2002.

With Fariba Farshad he founded Candlestar in 2003. With the support of Maja Hoffman’s LUMA Foundation, The Financial Times and Pictet, Candlestar inaugurated the first edition of Photo London. These partnerships remain in place 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 almost 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