Candida Höfer is a contemporary German photographer known for her large colour photographs of interior spaces. The photographs focus on symmetry, the architecture's sense of scale, and proportion.Read More
Höfer studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1973 to 1982, first in film with the Danish filmmaker Ole John, then in photography with Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Bechers' influential ethos—characterised by an emphasis on formal qualities and emotional detachment—was absorbed by Höfer and her fellow students, among them Thomas Struth, Axel Hütte, and Thomas Ruff.
Like her teachers, who were masters of black-and-white photography, Höfer initially shunned colour. An early work, Flipper (1973), is a large photo-collage of 47 gelatin silver prints depicting pinball machines, captured with players or isolated in arcades and pubs. However, while working on her 'Türken in Deutschland' (Turks in Germany) series (1973–1979) documenting the life of Turkish migrant families in their new German homes, Höfer began to use colour, finding it more suitable than monochrome.
During Höfer's experiences working with migrants she became interested in the way people construct and engage with their environment, and how it affects their lives. The artist's subject matter shifted from people to public spaces, such as the vast interiors of cultural and institutional buildings like libraries, museums, hotels, banks, opera houses, zoological gardens, and palaces. Many of Höfer's large-scale colour photographs have been taken in European and North American cities like Düsseldorf, Naples, Venice, Florence, St Petersburg, and Philadelphia.
Höfer's images are typically empty of people, paying special attention to accentuating each space's architectural qualities. A rare exception is Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen I (2001), which shows a vertical, interior view of the Abbey Library of St Gallen, Switzerland, from a raised vantage point. Anonymous visitors are seen roaming throughout the ground floor. Here, however, the artist used long exposure times to make the moving individuals appear blurry, abstract, and ephemeral compared to the library's hard walls and bookshelves.
In 2015, Höfer travelled to Mexico as part of the Dual Year exchange programme between Mexico and Germany to document historic and contemporary architecture there. The resulting works—later shown in the solo exhibition In Mexico at Sean Kelly, New York (2019)—include the Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara, which is a UNESCO World Heritage building that was erected in the 19th century. The artist photographed various passages, rooms, open doors, and nooks that she encountered, capturing a sense of classical beauty.
Höfer's works are in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Kunsthalle Basel; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Tate Modern, London, among others. In 2003, she represented Germany alongside Martin Kippenberger at the 50th Venice Biennale; in 2018, she was awarded the Sony World Photography Awards' award for Outstanding Contribution to Photography.
Höfer lives and works in Cologne.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019