Candida Höfer is a Cologne, Germany-based photographer and a former student of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Like other Becher students – Axel Hütte, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth – Höfer's work is known for technical perfection and a strictly conceptual approach. From 1997 to 2000, she taught as professor at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe. Höfer is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Contribution to Photography award, as part of the Sony World Photography awards.
Candida Höfer was born in 1944 in Eberswalde, Province of Brandenburg. Höfer is a daughter of the German journalist Werner Höfer. From 1964 to 1968 Höfer studied at the Kölner Werkschulen (Cologne Academy of Fine and Applied Arts). After graduation, she began working for newspapers as a portrait photographer, producing a series on Liverpudlian poets. From 1970 to 1972, she studied daguerreotypes while working as an assistant to Werner Bokelberg in Hamburg. She later attended the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1973 to 1982, where she studied film under Ole John and, from 1976, photography under Bernd Becher. Along with Thomas Ruff, she was one of the first of Becher’s students to use color, showing her work as slide projections. While at school, she conceived a film which she shot jointly with Tony Morgan in the Düsseldorf ice cream parlour Da Forno in 1975.
Höfer initially worked with black-and-white photography, such as with Flipper (1973), a large photo-collage consisting of 47 gelatin silver prints. The images all depict pinball machines in arcades and pubs, sometimes seen with players and sometimes by themselves. Shortly afterwards, she began working on her 'Türken in Deutschland' (Turks in Germany) series (1973–1979), which follows Turkish migrant families in their new German homes. It was during this period that Höfer became interested in colour, as she felt it suited her works better, and in interior spaces and their impact on the people who inhabit them and vice versa.
Höfer began taking color photographs of interiors of public buildings, such as offices, banks, and waiting rooms, in 1979. Her breakthrough to fame came with a series of photographs showing guest workers in Germany, after which she concentrated on the subjects Interiors, Rooms and Zoological Gardens. Höfer specialises in large-format photographs of empty interiors and social spaces that capture the "psychology of social architecture". Her photographs are taken from a classic straight-on frontal angle or seek a diagonal in the composition. She tends to shoot each actionless room from an elevated vantage point near one wall so that the far wall is centered within the resulting image. From her earliest creations, she has been interested in representing public spaces such as museums, libraries, national archives or opera houses devoid of all human presence. Höfer’s imagery has consistently focused on these depopulated interiors since the 1980s. Höfer groups her photographs into series that have institutional themes as well as geographical ones, but the formal similarity among her images is their dominant organizing principle.