Höfer studied film with Ole John at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1973 to 1976 then studied photography with Bernd and Hilla Becher between 1976 and 1982. The key influence of the latter led her to evolve from the photography with a social emphasis that she had produced in the 1970s to images characterised by bareness, simplicity and objectivity, set in symbolic public spaces devoid of any human presence. This work has made Höfer one of the leading names within the New School of German Photography.
Since 1975 when she began to hold solo exhibitions, Höfer’s work has been seen at Portikus, Frankfurt (1992); the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg (1993); the Kunstverein Wolfsburg (1998); the Kunstverein Basel (1999) and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago (2000). A major retrospective of her work was seen in Seattle, Philadelphia, Utah and Tennessee (2006-2007), and she has also held individual exhibitions at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, the IMMA, Dublin, and the CCB, Lisbon (2006); the Caixa Forum, Barcelona (2007); the ZKM, Karlsruhe (2008); the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, the Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen (2009); the MARCO, Vigo, and the CAAC, Seville (2010); the Museum fur Neue Kunst, Friburgo (2011, 2012); and the Museum KunstPalast, Dusseldorf (2013-2014). In addition to taking part in Documenta 11, Kassel (2002), she represented Germany at the Venice Biennial (2003), together with Martin Kippenberger.