Some objects are so ubiquitous, so utilitarian, that they become invisible. The hand dryer is one such example. We tend to take notice only when it is broken, when our quest for hot air is met with an embarrassing moment of hand shaking or wiping, in an effort to remove the offending wetness as quickly as possible. The hand dryer also exists purely in the public realm, in offices and restaurants and municipal buildings. We have heard of people installing gold-plated toilets in their homes, but even the most basic of dryers would seem absurd in a personal bathroom.
Photographer Samuel Ryde documents both the visual qualities of the machine and its surroundings to create a surprisingly fascinating archive of shapes, forms, colours and text. What began as a diaristic Instagram account has now transformed into a book, cataloguing hundreds of dryers found across the globe in bars, museums, working men’s clubs and other public restrooms. For every curvaceous metal nozzle surrounded by clinical tiling, there is a sickly pink cube installed to match the wallpaper, or a heavily graffitied unit that has various out-of-order warnings scrawled alongside.
“Both the visual qualities of the machine and its surroundings create a surprisingly fascinating archive of shapes, forms, colours and text”
The pleasure found in each of these images stems from a strange mundanity, with some of the most exciting scenes coming not from the heavily branded presence of Dyson (whose advertorial-style foreword penned by the founder is barely worth mentioning) but the clunky outlines of more basic technologies. The shiny surfaces are often tarnished and battered but remain undoubtedly pleasing.
On occasion, Ryde even lets a paper dispenser sneak in, just to remind us that there’s more than one way to dry a hand. However, these alternatives rarely have the same semi-sci-fi personality as their air blasting counterparts. In this book Ryde delights in the variety offered by such a commonplace object, and might well set us on an obsessive journey all of our own.
All images © Samuel Ryde
Hand Dryers by Samuel Rye
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