The Wick - Fariba Farshad The Wick - Fariba Farshad
Monday Muse

Interview Photo London’s Co-founder Fariba Farshad

Fariba Farshad
09 May 2022
Fariba Farshad
09 May 2022
Photo London returns to Somerset House this week from 12-15 May, bringing together the world’s leading galleries for one of the key dates on the professional photography calendar. Now in its seventh year, the annual photography fair will welcome 106 exhibitors from 18 countries. So, who better to be this week’s Monday Muse than its founder Fariba Farshad?

Born in Iran, Farshad moved to Paris in 1983 before London in 1986 where she started her academic career at the University of the Arts London. There she was instrumental in the development of the IT Research and Development Unit, the centre for research in the application of technology in the arts and art education. She has been a pioneer of creative education ever since as well as an award-winning curator and champion of Iranian artists – her globally touring exhibition, Burnt Generation, introduced many young contemporary Iranian artists to a western audience.

Along with Michael Benson, she is also the co-founder of Candlestar, a renowned cultural consultancy, which produces Photo London and specialises in the development of new initiatives in art and education such as the Prix Pictet global photography prize and the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design.

THE WICK:   Talk us through a typical Monday.

Fariba Farshad:   Monday starts like any other day. I am woken up by my cat, Chelsea, demanding her breakfast. Then after a quick coffee I go to the gym for weight training. After which I am ready for anything the week can throw at me… usually an array of surprises. No week is ever the same as there is always so much going on and so many amazing creative challenges on the horizon. It means that it is essential that I spend time with my brilliant long-suffering assistant who helps me navigate my day and amend and plan the week.

TW:   Who are the new cultural talents on your radar?

FF:   Just before we started Photo London, I curated Burnt Generation, which featured a group of young Iranian photographers. The show was a huge hit and I think it is about time for a follow-up, perhaps focusing on Iran’s brilliant and courageous women photographers.

TW:   A sense of place is important to your work. What are your favourite places to be inspired?

FF:   I love the energy and faded glories of New York and Venice, but I have been particularly thrilled to discover the depth of London’s vibrant photography scene.

“The art world has learned to stop being snootily dismissive about photography.”

TW:   How do you feel the role of photography in the art world has changed since establishing Photo London in 2015?

FF:   The art world has learned to stop being snootily dismissive about photography and to start taking it seriously. I am pleased to see that many collectors have followed suit.

TW:   Last year’s Prix Pictet theme was ‘Fire’, drawing on its association with renewal and rebirth and following a series of catastrophic fires across the world. What is your process for coming up with the prize themes?

FF:   This is always the subject of great debate and mystery. Somehow, we have been able to identify, over the years, themes that chime with the mood of the times. The next theme, which will be announced in Arles in early July, will be no exception.

TW:   British photographer and filmmaker Nick Knight was announced as Photo London’s Master of Photography for 2022. What is it about his work that stands out?

FF:   Nick moves so brilliantly between disciplines but always with photography as the root or jumping-off point for all that he does. In this he had much in common with Photo London. He was an obvious choice as Master of Photography.

TW:   What would your advice be to someone starting to collect photography?

FF:   Ignore everything that everyone tells you and follow your own instincts.

TW:   Which photographer (dead or alive) would take your dream portrait?

FF:   Peter Lindbergh. My co-founder Michael Benson wrote a book, Raw Beauty, about Lindbergh last year based on a series of interviews with many of the people he worked with. Each of them said that Lindbergh captured the beauty that lies beneath the surface in a way no other photographer could.

TW:   Desert island quarantine – which album, book and artwork do you take with you?

FF:   Art work: Graciela Iturbide’s Angel Woman.
Book: Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami.
Album: Blue Lines by Massive Attack.

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