Candida Höfer (born 1944) 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.
Höfer began taking color photographs of interiors of public buildings, such as offices, banks, and waiting rooms, in 1979 while studying in Düsseldorf. 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.
In her Zoologische Gärten series (1991), Höfer shifted her focus away from interiors to zoos in Germany, Spain, England, France and the Netherlands. Implementing her typically descriptive style, Höfer’s images again seek to deconstruct the role institutions play in defining the viewer’s gaze by documenting animals in their caged environments.
In 2001, for Douze-Twelve, commissioned by the Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle in Calais and later shown at Documenta 11, Höfer photographed all 12 casts of Auguste Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais in their installations in various museums and sculpture gardens. From 2004 to 2007, she traveled the world to photograph conceptual artist On Kawara’s iconic Date Paintings in the homes of private collectors. In 2005, Höfer embarked upon a project at the Musée du Louvre, documenting its various galleries, examining not only the sacred art they exhibit but also their individual design, arches, tiles and embellishments, with spectators and tourists entirely absent.