Where lols outweigh likes: Behind the scenes of Cologne’s selfie museum

With its bubblegum-pink balloons, neon-coloured ball pits and retro American diner as eye-popping, readymade photographic backdrops, the Supercandy Museum is an Instagrammer's dream.

Where lols outweigh likes: Behind the scenes of Cologne's selfie museum
Illustration of man taking a selfie next to the Instagram logo. Photo: DPA

Crammed into a supermarket trolley, Kiki Malliora squealed with laughter as she rolled past her sister at Cologne's pop-up selfie museum, where visitors said having fun outweighs the hunt for “likes” in a changing social media landscape.

“Sure, the setting is fake,” said the 38-year-old office administrator, dressed in a black crop t-shirt and jeans.

“But what matters to me is that the picture is real and that people can see I'm having a good time.”

Supercandy's three-month run comes as a new wave of social media users prize authenticity over staged photos, and celebrity influencers are increasingly honest about the effort that goes into keeping up a picture-perfect feed.

READ ALSO: Düsseldorf to open first Instagram museum

US singer Demi Lovato attracted almost 10 million Instagram “likes” when she posted an unedited bikini shot revealing her cellulite, while Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore showed herself crying on a “difficult and not so pretty” day.

Instagram is even experimenting with making the “like”-button invisible in response to concerns over its mental health impact.

Critics say younger users especially report feeling anxious or self-conscious if their posts don't perform well.

'A lot of work'

“When I see those elaborately staged pictures, I just think: God, that must have taken a lot of work,” said Malliora.

Her younger sister Nathalie, who keeps her Instagram account private for pre-approved followers only to see any uploaded photos and videos she shares, nodded in agreement.

Pop-up attractions like the one in Cologne have sprung up across the globe in recent years, offering anyone armed with a smartphone a plethora of brashly coloured, playful settings to liven up their social media presence.

The Supercandy Museum returned to the western German city this month after a previous six-month stint drew over 42,000 mainly female visitors, with full-price tickets costing €29.

The man behind Supercandy, Frank Karch, said ticket sales were “noticeably up” for the second edition, this time located in an industrial building in the city's hip Ehrenfeld district.

“Eventually this craze too will run its course,” he told AFP.

But the emergence of creators championing unfiltered, real-life pictures isn't a threat to his business model, he said, arguing that social media was diversifying so much there was a niche for everyone.

“The overarching mega-trend will stay the same it has been since the invention of painting: wanting to have a nice picture of yourself,” he said.

Pink cash

Social media expert Klemens Skibicki, a professor at the Cologne Business School, agreed but said the gulf was widening between those who see social media as a hobby, and those who use it as a tool to promote themselves or a brand – with some influencers earning enough to quit their day jobs.

Eschewing “selfies”, which anyone can take, influencers tend to opt more for “posies” taken by someone else, often a professional photographer, he said, to keep their posts looking polished and aspirational.

At Supercandy, German reality TV couple Ginger Costello Wollersheim and Bert Wollersheim – who have 85,000 followers between them – played with piles of pink $100 bills as their photographer snapped away.

“If you don't post good pictures for a while, you get fewer likes and people unfollow. So we're here to make beautiful, creative photos,” said Ginger, 33, smiling broadly.

Her long-haired husband Bert, a regular feature in Germany's tabloid press, said they weren't “fanatical” about chasing “likes”.

“Coming here is fun, it changes our story up a bit and that's good for us professionally,” added the 68-year-old, clad in shades and sparkly trainers.

But not everyone could see the appeal of what is essentially a giant photo

Chatting with her friends in a busy Cologne shopping street, high school student Anna-Maria cringed at the thought of forking out money to pose against an artificial backdrop.

“That's way too fake. I prefer spontaneous snapshots, where someone is laughing or in the middle of doing something,” the 17-year-old said.

“And I'd only post a selfie if my friends were in it too.”

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Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

The holiday of Diwali kicks off on Monday. Here's where you can celebrate all around Germany.

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

With over 100,000 Indians in Germany, and over 175,000 people of Indian descent, it’s little wonder that Diwali – the famous five day Hindi festival of lights starting this year on Monday October 24th – is being celebrated all around the Bundesrepublik

READ ALSO: Indians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Even the House of Parliament in Frankfurt is honouring the holiday for the first time with a special reception on October 30th.

Diwali takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. With the days shortening in Germany, there’s all the more reason to celebrate light — especially over lively music, traditional dance and authentically spicy Indian cuisine.

We have rounded up some of the top events to celebrate around Germany, both the week of Diwali and afterwards, stretching into mid-November. If you have an additional event to suggest, email us at [email protected]

October 24th in Heidelberg

Happen to be in Heidelberg? Then it’s not too late to head to the Sweet Home Project, which will be cooking up a storm starting at 6:30pm. The menu includes an assortment of Indian sweets and savoury dishes. The collective only asks that participants bring along a candle (and a hearty appetite).

If you miss this event, and are still craving some (really) spicy traditional cuisine, the Firebowl Heidelberg is hosting a Diwali party on October 29th, replete with lots of food and drink and Bollywood beats the whole night. 

October 29th near Frankfurt

For those who fancy a Feier with a full-buffet, this celebration in Dreieich delivers through an all-you-can-eat dinner with traditional fare. Starting at 5pm and stretching into the early hours of the morning, the festive feast includes traditional Bollywood music by Derrick Linco. There’s also a dance party for kids, who receive free admission up to seven years old and €25 up to 14 years. Normal tickets go for €40 per person.

A previous Diwali celebration of traditional dance and music in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

November 4th near Düsseldorf

On November 4th at 6pm, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft Düsseldorf will be hosting a family-friendly party in nearby Ratingen with classical Indian music and dance, a huge dinner and Bollywood music led by DJ SA-ONE. Tickets cost about €40 each, but children under six receive free entry. 

November 5th in Bonn 

The Indian Students Association of Bonn-Cologne will be hosting its biggest event of the year: for €10, event goers can try an array of Indian food, play classic games and tune into cultural performances. 

READ ALSO: Moving from India to Munich changed my life

November 12th in Essen 

Whether you like traditional bhajans or meditative ragas, this concert will capture many of the classic sounds of Indian music with artists such as Anubhab Tabla Ensemble, Debasish Bhattacharjee and Somnath Karmorak taking center stage. The performance starts at 5pm and costs €10. 

November 12th and 13th in Berlin

Indian food fans will get to enjoy 12 stands devoted to Indian cuisine and products, all coming from the local Indian community. The weekend-long festival will also include stand-up comedy from the Desi Vibes Comedy Group. Karaoke fans will also enjoy singing along with the Sounds of India group, followed by an after party on Saturday. All this only costs €2 at the door.