Monday, March 7, 2016

Alex Sweeney

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to a friend to Chris Avery Bennet and talented photographer Alex Sweeney. A talented Connecticut photographer Alex continues to build her career one snapshot at a time. Please enjoy the following interview with the one and only Alex Sweeney.

Q: What inspired you to start taking photographs?

A: Ah this question always makes me think! I think when I was little I was drawn to the fact that I could see pictures in books, television, and whenever my mom got the disposable camera developed. The idea of preserving memories was so important to me because growing up with ADHD I had a tendency to forget things and photographs were a reminder of things that I probably would have forgotten about had I not captured the moment in film or on my digital camera. 

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? 

A: Besides photography? I like to read, currently I'm reading a book called "Bowie on Bowie" by Sean Edwards, David Bowie was a huge influence growing up so it's a great read! He's a fantastic character! Also, I like to draw (though I'm not very good at it), binge watch Netflix and drink lots of bubble tea.  

Q: What are some of your favorite things to take pictures of?

A: I like to photograph a lot of self-portraiture, not because I'm a narcissist or anything but because I think the hardest critic is yourself and photographing yourself and liking it is such a challenge and I find a great thrill in that challenge. Another thing I enjoy photographing is fashion editorials because fashion is such a huge part of my life and one of the focuses of my career because my ultimate goal is to be the next Richard Avedon (I know cocky right?). I'm not a huge fan of natural landscapes but more recently I have been doing a lot of architectural photography, there's something beautiful about all the buildings in New York City with their unique cracks and patterns, it fascinates me.

Q: What kind of shots peek your interest more nature, people, or art?

A: Most of the time I tend to stick to models and people, because the human connection is what makes photography to me so special. The interaction of the viewer and the camera, and the subject and the camera, that conversation that goes on when viewing photographs is magical to me. 

Q: What draws you to being a photographer?

A: Ever since I was about the age of 10 I realized I saw the world differently than others, I wanted to preserve moments and have physical evidence of memories I had collected throughout my life. As I grew up I realized I sucked at math, wasn't good at chemistry, hated writing for long periods of time, history is interesting but not a wise career choice. Art and photography to me was the only way that made sense to my brain, the only thing that I had passion for and along the way I discovered more clearly that fashion and photography are my muses. I have ADHD and the environment of being a photographer and working in fashion really help and utilize my unique qualities that I was given. I love the chaos, the beauty, the insanity, and the uncertainty of photography, and I love that I can control that chaos with a click of a shutter. 

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: Right now I'm planning on moving to Manhattan and continuing to work for the fashion house I work for, I have an amazing job and I wouldn't trade it for the world, it's helped me grow so much as a person and as an artist. 

Q: Do you have anything planned or in planning right now?

A: Recently I just shot my first maternity shoot, it was an interesting experience. Next I'm doing a shoot for an actor who needs his head shot done; I never usually turn down anyone who asks me to help them out. 

Q: What’s your favorite pass time?

A: Favorite pastime? Probably eating Ben and Jerry's and binge watching Bobs Burgers on TV.

Q: Do you enjoy what you do?

A:Yes, I enjoy what I do because it makes me happy not once has my job ever felt like a job it feels like fun because it’s what I enjoy in life. 

Q: What is your favorite event to go to?

A: My favorite event to go to to photograph is a fashion show. My favorite types of events to go to in general are concerts, and I'm attending the Blaqk Audio concert in May.

See more of Alex at and on her social media 
Twitter: asweeneyphoto
Instagram: asweeneyphoto

Interview by Tim Joseph 
 -Chris Avery Bennet

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hayley Gripp

This week it is my pleasure to introduce you all to a dear friend of mine. She is truly one of the most inspirational and helpful people I have in my life, Hayley Gripp.
Hayley Gripp is a natural all American actress, brand ambassador and philanthropist. She made her debut in the industry in 2012 as a print model, landing national ads for brands such as "Verizon Wireless" and "As Seen On TV". As an actress, Hayley has shot multiple commercials, has been a celebrity taste tester on Cupcake Wars, landed prominent roles on: "CSI: Las Vegas", a reoccurring role on the Lifetime original series "Killer Kids" and a role in the Lionsgate feature film "The Vatican Tapes". Hayley is a nationally published writer, with her most recent article published in "Simply Gluten Free" Magazine. In her free time Hayley is also a professional holistic vegetarian chef, and her cooking has been featured on live cooking segments, including the "San Diego Channel 6 News". Hayley prides herself on her philanthropy work and many charitable endeavors that include: the title of Youth Ambassador for California and Young Adult Board Member for the "Tourette Association America", the title of Female National Spokesperson for "The Stop Bullying Now Foundation" and in her home town of Los Angeles, Hayley avidly supports "The Covenant House California" and "A Place Called Home". Hayley has spoken to over 45K across the country on the bullying epidemic of our youth, and played a prominent role in getting the I.D.E.A. Act passed in Washington DC. As a representative and Brand Ambassador for "The Organic Face" Cosmetics, Hayley has collaborated directly with CEO Noreen Diani to help empower young girls through the education of healthy skincare as well as positive self esteem. Hayley is the face of "Undersummers" brand shortlettes, and will soon be launching her organic lifestyle blog in the hopes to educate others about the brand and the health benefits of living an organic sustainable lifestyle. In 2016 Hayley will begin filming the sitcom "The Ginger Girls" and training new TS Ambassadors at the National TAA Conference in DC.
Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming news and interviews on this amazing person and never forget to Make a Difference and Be the Difference.

-Chris Avery Bennet

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Frank Lowe

Frank Lowe is a name that is quickly becoming synonymous with single gay dads all over social media and beyond. Frank Lowe is now taking his divorce, after 17 years of marriage, and doing something positive with it. The blogger and YouTuber is taking social media by storm with his story to offer support to other single or divorced gay dads.

It isn’t easy to go through a divorce, let alone with a child, but Frank is opening up his personal life to give advice and create a positive presence in the wake of a negative outcome. Frank discussed with me about just how passionate he is about the cause behind his social media fame, what he looks to do in the future, and what a truly nice guy he is.

Q: Let's begin with how you started out blogging and becoming an avid YouTuber that has quite the following. Was there a specific moment or occurrence in your life that led you to get involved with social media sharing your story and helping other gay dads?

A: My real start was on Twitter in late 2012.  I began the @GayAtHomeDad account to do two things:  1) create general awareness that gay dads exist    2) to dissolve stereotypes by using self-deprecating comedy.  I’ve always known that humor is the best way to make people feel comfortable with something they’re unfamiliar with, and gay parenting was a wholly new concept then.  I had no idea it would snowball the way it did, and I now have a following of almost 100K on Twitter.  My YouTube channel was kind of a side thought, but it’s something I will continue to grow in the next couple of years. 

Q: You seem to have quite the social media presence and guide, which I find to be pretty accurate, as I am heavily on social media myself. It seems everybody today has something negative to say at some point no matter how positive or negative our presence might be. Do you ever find yourself being harassed, questioned, judged, or even bullied online?

A: Fortunately, I have been blessed with a sharp tongue.  Yes, I have definitely had people try to “come at me” in various ways on social media, but I very quickly shut it down.  I actually welcome it, if that sounds bizarre, because I like to put the trolls on display and let my followers have at them as well.  In other words, when people try to bully me, I turn the situation completely around and showcase their hatefulness for everyone to see.

Q: Have you ever had any second thoughts or concerns about sharing so much of your private life with your son in the social media world, as many try to shield their children from it?

A: Not at all, for two reasons:  1) what you actually see is what I want you to see – it is highly edited down from real life and often I mix fact and fiction  2) social media is going to be relevant for his entire life, and rather than shy away from it, I embrace it.  He is 6 and knows what Instagram and Twitter are, so they won’t be some big surprise when he’s older.  I think that will help him keep his head wrapped around all of it.

Q: You were married for several years, and while most see nothing but the negative out of divorce, you seem to have turned that into something positive by what you do. Why do you feel it is so important to be out there trying to help other divorced or single gay dads?

A: I absolutely sought out the things I was grateful for – that was how I coped with the divorce itself.  Divorce is extremely stigmatized and that is unbelievably ridiculous to me as it effects half the married population.  It’s unreal.  Gay divorce is even more stigmatized because married gay men feel very privileged to have the ability to legally marry now.  As a result, I wanted to talk about it to try and erase some of those thoughts, and now work for as a weekly columnist.  It is titled “Let’s Be Frank:  The Diary of a Divorced Gay Dad,” and no topics are off limits!  It’s been extremely cathartic.

Q: Can you tease about or tell us what some of your future goals and plans might be or are you keeping that on the hush for now?

A: I am working on a book actually.  Not an autobiography, but more of a guide.  It’s something that has never been done and I’m very excited about it.  I also have a super top secret project that I can say zero about, but it could be huge!

Q: What is one pertinent piece of advice you feel you can give divorced or single gay dads out there?

A: Find yourself again.  Any way you know how too.  Don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes along the way.  Also buy a great pair of jeans (or four) that make your ass look perfect. 

Q: Besides what you are doing with your online presence, how had it been overall since the divorce and getting back into the world of dating?

A: Well, I had a boyfriend for a bit after my divorce, and basically did everything wrong in the book.  It was probably the worst timing ever and I still feel terrible about it.  It made me realize I have a lot to learn, especially considering that I haven’t dated since the 1990’s.  I’m taking things very slow right now, and focusing on me.

Q: You have a slogan, which I happen to find pretty catchy, is "I used to be a bitchy gay guy, now I am a bitchy gay dad." How much and in what ways did having a child change who you were before you had a child?

A: I love that you mentioned this because that was my first tweet, and it’s entirely a joke.  I actually am making fun of bitchy gay guys – which only some people realize.  In reality, I’m a super nice guy.  Having Briggs (my son), changed my life completely.  I can’t even begin to tell you, but the best part about having a child is relinquishing all of your selfish habits.

Q: You have stated that you are addicted to social media, which some find to be a controversial topic these days, especially when it comes to our children getting involved with all the bullying and hate that takes place online. Do you feel that people might be overly obsessed with social media? It seems some might even have issues distinguishing it from reality at times. What are your thoughts on that subject, especially when it comes to your son possibly wanting to take part as he gets older?

A: I’m sure millions of us are obsessed with social media.  I have a very laissez faire approach to it as I feel it’s just part of our culture now.  It technically is reality now, but you can’t take it too seriously.  That’s the problem – when people take it seriously.  It should just be fun, but oftentimes someone who is more insecure can’t handle it.  My opinion is that it depends on the person.  Some have the ability to deal with things, including online bullying, and others simply don’t.  I will absolutely hold my son’s hand and help him set up his accounts when he is at the right age.  I will monitor everything he does, whether he likes it or not, and flex my own social media relevance if I ever need to with him.

Q: In taking a look at your site, it is very inspirational. You seem to truly want to make a difference in more ways than one. Where would you like to see what your current social media presence take you, beyond what you are doing now such as blogging and your YouTube videos?  And what inspires you to keep pushing forward?

A: Fortunately, my top secret project will do exactly that!  So I’m currently in the process of evolving my “brand.” I want to expand on my writing as well, and continue to think of creative ways to play with social media.  My biggest inspirations come from my son, himself.  I want him to have the best life possible and feel that he is loved by many.  Also, occasionally I have followers tell me that I am their role model, which truly makes my day and makes me want to continue putting myself out there.  I feel like I started this crazy machine, and it’s only getting revved up – I have a lot of work to do. 
In getting to know Frank a bit more, some might be surprised to find out how down the earth he truly is. We tend to make judgements at times before really learning about a person. Though some might see him as his slogan, “I used to be a bitchy gay guy, now I am a bitchy gay dad, “ he is far more than that.

Frank Lowe is looking to continue being a great dad to his son Briggs, but also to raise awareness and help single gay dads during times of struggle. What better way to spread a positive message and turn around your divorce and create something good out of it.

This is why it is so important for us to always recognize that even in bad times, we learn lessons that can take us to heights we never would have otherwise realized was something that was part of our journey.

Follow Frank Lowe on Twitter:@GayAtHomeDad and you can also check out his website here:
Interview Conducted by 
Dana Jacoviello Owner and Founder of Bullies Keep Out
Instagram: bullieskeepoutllc
Twitter: Bullieskeepout

-Chris Avery Bennet

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Andrew Mangold - Mangold Leather

Today I will introduce you to an artist that will make any leather product  ranging from a hand made fashionable statement to an exotic decorative accessory or costume. A Chris Avery Bennet Group favorite, Andrew Mangold is featured as a hardcore, visionary leather designer bringing some of the most rugged, yet elegant leather accessories to the world of fashion. His pieces are a reflection of how life will look in a radically different future where every individual is proudly unique, where clothes are made to last for years, and where nature has been expertly integrated into daily life... More simply, his belts are bright, they’re sturdy, they use the best hardware, best materials, and the best methods of assembly to push the edge of what is even possible within leather. 

One of Andrew’s greatest achievements has been the creation of a series of life-sized leather animal sculptures, including an entirely hand-stitched, hand-dyed elephant’s head, a rhinoceros, and other non-earthly creatures. Each of these sculptures required Andrew to bend his mastery over leather to envision new techniques, and work at a larger scale than crafters within the medium have ever attempted. And yet, the success of these monumental works prove that even with remarkable ambition, Andrew has the grounded ability to carry out grand dreams into reality.

At present, the leather crafting business is only one part of Andrew’s greatest project. In fact, the real dream is to create a fully-functional, sustainable community using the most holistic building methods and management. The purpose is to bring together the most passionate artists, healers and gardeners around in order to create a space where everyone is encouraged to excel at their own particular gift. Just like the belts and bags that Mangold Leather sells, the purpose in all that Andrew does is to bring out the greatest inner essence of every individual.

Currently, Andrew runs Mangold Leather with a small team of dedicated artists and healers who care deeply about what they do. Together, they test-run the first small model community at a site in Turners Falls, MA, while each operating and assisting in one-another’s specific trade or business. This small community is the original heart and brain of many larger projects geared specifically at bringing as many people as possible the tools and theory they need to enable their own freedom. This includes high quality holistic medicines, healing services, gardening abilities, green building workshops, medicinal plants, seeds, trees, and most importantly, really fun parties! All this while synching up with other like minded farms and projects to facilitate new living/working opportunities for those who need them, and to better augment the movement to a more fair and livable world.

As for the leatherwork itself, every item that leaves Andrew’s workshop is considered, in one degree, to be medicine. He doesn’t just sell shit so that it will end up in a closet somewhere. Mangold Leather products are created out of passion, knowing that every single bag or belt is one of the most awesome personal gifts he could give back to the world. Using over a decade or hard-earned leathering ability, and tapping into a pool of semi-secret invented techniques, Mangold Leather products are each a diamond-like, life-enhancing companion. Owning such a radical, spiritually infused bag or belt encourages a person to more courageously inhabit this planet. It provides inspiration and a feeling of protection to grab hold of your own life; to settle for nothing less than your heart’s true desires; to look like no one else can look but your own inner self. To speak like you and sing like you and dance and dream and act like only you can do.

One of the final and most exciting pieces to Andrew’s work is that every single item is made from of grass-fed bison skin. These animals are raised in natural, respectful conditions, and tanned at a low-impact, responsible tannery. Up until 2013, Andrew had been using conventional leather, like nearly every other crafter. However, through their broad networking campaign with other good farms, Mangold Leather has linked up with a team that produces the absolute best leather available. This stuff is stronger, softer, and in time, wears in, not out. Handling and wearing this material feels like a dream, and it protects one’s health by reducing contact with the harmful chemicals used at other tanneries. It’s fantastic for the environment too, because these bison come from prairies, not feedlots, and the tannery uses absolutely lowest energy, water and pollutants in making this material. This is the only leather that anyone should own. 

 Coming as one of our most highly recommended designers, Andrew Mangold of Mangold leather is not to be overlooked! Please check him out at


 All of the best wishes, and remember to always Make A Difference

-Chris Avery Bennet