Though Adam Aries, also known by friends as “Zidney Fiendish,” died suddenly in his sleep three years ago, his memory was kept alive at the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge. Photographs of Aries hung throughout the venue on Feb. 8, the last night of the exhibit, depicting the last decade of his life in a photography showcase called “The Locust,” named for the locust tattoo on Aries’ neck.
Atom Moore, the photographer behind this striking collection of images, often found inspiration from Aries and the two became close friends over the course of their artistic partnership.
Moore was still a student at Fitchburg State University when first met Aries at Precision Body Arts in New Hampshire, where “Zid,” nickname derived from a song by The Damned, was apprenticing as a body piercer. Instantly struck by Aries’ unique physical characteristics, Moore asked him to model for a photo shoot.
“He was a very interesting guy as far as he never had eyebrows,” Moore explained. “If you look at most of my photos, I think there’s only one of them where he maybe has eyebrows.”
Looking at the photographs, it is obvious that Aries does not fit the stereotypical “model” type. However, it is also obvious from Moore’s pictures that Aries was not shy or ashamed of his distinctive appearance in any way.
In a bold portrait, he faces the camera straight on, eyes shaded with heavy makeup (eyebrows penciled on), gauges in his ears and tattoos proudly decorating his chest, neck and shoulders. This photograph, taken backstage at a club in Brooklyn, is one of Moore’s favorites in the show.
“He’s a rather androgynous guy, but he was not shy about putting on makeup and going and performing in front of people — that wasn’t a thing for him, so that drew me to him as a photographic subject,” Moore said.
It soon became apparent, though, that Aries’ physical quirks weren’t his only notable qualities. As a bouncer and disc jockey at the Middle East, a body piercer at Pino Bros Ink and a member of the body suspension group Rites of Passage, Aries was a well-loved member of Boston’s subcultures. Moore purposefully chose the Middle East as the venue for this show because many people in the area knew Aries so well.
At the Middle East, Aries worked security staff and performed as DJ Phantom Limb, with his friend Clay Fernald (aka DJ Hank Venture).
“He was a leader to our security staff, a friend to all and he is still missed,” Fernald said. “What a powerful personality. What an amazing talent.”
Apart from DJing, Aries was also passionate about poi, a dance involving a rope with a ball of fire on the end. At first glance, one of the photographs from “The Locust” seems to be only a flash of flame with a zigzagging orange tail. Upon closer inspection, one is able to make out Aries’ blurry figure. He is seemingly small compared to the tremendous fireball, making it hard to believe that he is the one commanding the scorching flames.
Another picture shows a more everyday scene. Aries, wearing jeans, a green jacket and baseball cap, is standing with his back to the camera with his hands in his pockets. In front of him is a rusted boxcar and sparse tree in the background. With only the shaded suggestion of his profile visible, he could be anyone’s friend, brother or son.
The diversity of Moore’s photos display Aries’ many different sides. He was into tattoos, piercings and body suspension. He was passionate about music and performing. He was confident in himself and an inspiration to those around him. Most importantly, he was a good friend.
“He would go out of his way to do anything for you,” Moore said, describing Aries as the kind of guy who would drive six hours from Boston to Philadelphia to stop by a friend’s birthday party and then drive back for work the next day.
Though this year marks the third anniversary of his death, his life still impacts people, in part due to Moore’s expressive photos.
“Words can’t express how I miss him. I feel grateful to be alive,” Fernald said. “I wish I could DJ with Adam one more time, talk comic one more time or make fun of clowns with him one more time.”
“The Locust” completed its month-long run at the Middle East, but the full showcase is available to view online.