Photo London 2019

Fariba Farshad – award-winning, visionary Iranian curator, feminist and activist

How a softly spoken, Iranian feminist and activist is making a big noise in the world of photography.

For somebody so softly spoken and unassuming, the inspirational Fariba Farshad is certainly making a big noise in the worlds of art and photography.

The award-winning, visionary Iranian curator, feminist and activist, is toasting the success of the fourth edition of Photo London – one of four international cultural events dreamt up by Fariba and her husband Michael Benson’s company, Candlestar.

Through Candlestar, Fariba and Michael bring to life major new international cultural initiatives on behalf of companies “with a vision, but lacking the tools and experience to produce it”.

The stylish former lecturer has achieved successful cultural feats such as Prix Pictet and Art Dubai by drawing on her brave history as a feminist activist during the Iranian revolution, when she set up her own publishing houses and art gallery, before studying technology at university and going on to teach the same subject to other women.

“I wanted to create a space for women to get to the top in technology, as this environment was fast growing and very dominated by men,” she explains.

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“Then I taught BA fashion journalism and launched “In Touch”, the first fashion magazine on the internet in 1995.”

In 2003, Candlestar was born when she began a project with Michael Benson, an award-winning writer and film producer whose career in education and the arts spans over 20 years.

The couple worked with Art Dubai before getting involved with the development of Prix Pictet, the international photography prize founded by Pictet Group in 2008.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Prix Pictet and over the last few years, Candlestar has organised more than 80 exhibitions in 35 international cities.

However, it is London that Fariba regards as the “International City of Culture” and it is clear Photo London, in which work from talented photographers of the past, present and future are brought together, is one of her proudest achievements.

“London was desperate for a photography fair – it’s one of the world’s most vibrant and culturally important cities yet until Photo London launched in 2015 it was lacking a high-quality photography fair,” she explains.

“We were encouraged to take this on.”

Fariba credits partnerships with the likes of Maja Hoffmann’s LUMA Foundation and the FT Weekend as contributing to the success of Photo London, as, “you can only achieve projects like this if you work with others.”

But it is clear the drive, vision and determination of Candlestar’s founders is what has made Photo London such a success.

Fariba says: “We were clear from the start that we didn’t want Photo London to be like other fairs. We are very proud of our Public Programme, which includes a critically-acclaimed Talks Programme and series of special exhibitions which we hope bring photography to a wider audience.”

“London has always been an incredibly creative and energetic city and we wanted to harness some of that energy…We announced our intention and dates for the first Photo London in 2013. We thought it would take one year but it took two. For a while, our main problem was where to do it. We moved our offices to Somerset House in 2012 and the idea to host it there soon followed. Since launching the first edition of Photo London, the fair has become a fixture in London’s cultural calendar. Hosting the fair at Somerset House proved to be the right decision.”

Sacha Goldberger – photography

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Categories: Art, Art Fairs, Art Photography, Reviews

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