Born in Weissenfels, Naundorf moved from the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1985. From 1990 to 1992 she studied in Munich at the Municipal College for Design with a focus on graphics, painting and photography. From 1990, Naundorf assisted in internationally oriented photography studios in Munich, Berlin, Paris, New York City and Singapore. In the early 1990s, she traveled on behalf of publishers including Bruckmann, Bucher, Reich, Knaur and Nymphenburger as a reportage photographer in countries such as Mongolia, Greenland, Iceland and Brazil. She lived and worked with many ethnic groups, including the indigenous peoples the Yanomamis, Mongols and Kazakhs in the Altai Highlands and with shaman's in Yakutia in Siberia. Her reportage work has been published in National Geographic, Geo and Globo. A meeting and joint trips with the Dalai Lama influenced Naundorf's social commitment to Tibet and its cause supported with Amnesty International, also a subject of reportage. From 1989, inspired by her mentor and a decade – long friendship with Horst P. Horst, Cathleen Naundorf focused her creative interest and art direction in fashion photography commuting between projects in New York and Paris. In 1997, she began to photograph backstage for Condé Nast during various Paris fashion shows. In 1998 she settled permanently in Paris. From 1998 to 2000, Cathleen Naundorf collaborated with the haute couture master embroiderer François Lesage on the "Les coulisses de la mode et de haute couture" project. From 2000 to 2004 she became a photojournalist for Süddeutsche Zeitung's latest fashion reports. In the years 2004 to 2011 Cathleen Naundorf worked on various photo series under the working title "Un rêve de mode", focussing on fashion houses such as Dior, CHANEL, Valentino, Gaultier, Elie Saab and Armani. Her collaboration with fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Philip Tracy, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix allowed her access to the Maison's collections. The result of these projects is a 150 photo series (body of) work published in 2012 by Prestel Verlag, in a limited edition entitled "The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf". A collaboration with the Reunion Musees National produced several photo shoots with a mix of French historical architecture and Parisian fashion themes. Among these shoots, five Grand Palais photo series were created, together with a series in Malmaison Castle and Moulage du Louvre. From 2010, Naundorf worked closely with the Musée Rodin in Paris and the Musée Rodin de Meudon in Meudon. Her work has been published in Tatler, Harpers Bazaar and Vogue. In 2010, Naundorf began working with Parisian jewelers such as CHANEL, Dior, Bulgari, Cartier, Chaumet, Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron.  In 2012, Naundorf worked with interior designer Didier Gomez and the Sofitel Paris Hotel. (Haute Couture Suit, Restaurant). Since 2012 Cathleen Naundorf has been working with Valentino Garavani on various projects such as "An Italian Story" and "The NY City Ballet". In 2012-2013, Justine Picardie commissioned Cathleen Naundorf for Harper's Bazaar, UK. Photographic projects were shot in London, Paris and Bangkok for the magazine. An exotic series of photographs was taken at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok and Ching Mai, and in the Royal Palace with the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, Thailand, shooting the Queens private haute couture collection. Photographs for Somerset House and the Victoria and Albert Museum followed in 2014. Naundorf's signature photographs are in collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Musée Rodin, Paris. In 2016 she won the American Photography Award. In 2018 saw the publication of the book Women of singular beauty - CHANEL Haute Couture by Cathleen Naundorf, Rizzoli, USA.