‘Tell Me Everything I Know and Everything I Don’t Know’ by Katy Gross

Multimedia project depicts letting go of the person we’d thought we be amid dementia with audio, video, and multiple-exposure still images
‘Tell Me Everything I Know and Everything I Don’t Know’ by Katy Gross

What is Tell Me Everything I Know and Everything I Don’t Know and how did it come to be? 

Tell Me Everything I Know and Everything I Don’t Know is part of a multimedia project about my family and the process of letting go. I have created a short video of my dad, Michael Gross, telling one of the few stories he has about me as a child interspersed with my narration about his decline. I have also started to create a body of multiple-exposure images that explore the psychological, emotional, and physical aspects of aging, dementia, memory, and caretaking. 

Multiple exposure images with a video overlay of a conversation between Michael and Katy Gross.

Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia? 

I have always been a documentarian and archivist, and over the years I have created many images of both my son, Archie, and my father. I have many saved voice messages from my father from the last few years. I have recently found that making multiple exposure images of my father has allowed me to explore more of the psychological aspects of dementia—the confusion, agitation, sense of entrapment, etc—that my father often feels. Finding ways to document and express what he and my family are experiencing has helped me to cope with the difficulty and sadness of the situation. 

What has been your experience working on dementia-related art?

I’ve been struggling until recently with how to portray dementia through photography. However, multiple exposure images have opened up a new way for me to explore the complexity of the disease. For a while, I have been interested in exploring alternative processes, and I am planning on making anthotypes, which are ephemeral images made from plant extracts. This process feels appropriate for exploring issues related to dementia and memory loss, as the image gradually fades away. I am also interested in combining audio and images to create digital videos using voicemail messages I’ve saved from my father and old family photos. 

How has Tell Me Everything I Know and Everything I Don’t Know been received? 

I have shared some of the multiple exposure images on Instagram and in a photography class I was taking and received great feedback from audiences. One of these photos is currently included in a photo exhibition. I have yet to share them with my father or others who are living with dementia. The feedback I have received is that the images are compelling, beautiful, complex, and heartfelt. 

This work is dedicated to: My father, Michael Gross. He is 81 years old and has lived with dementia for at least 9 years. He is the son of Holocaust survivors from Vienna and spent his career as a Native American rights lawyer who had 2 cases go to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has always been intellectually curious, dedicated to social justice, and sociable. It has been really hard to see his world get smaller and smaller over the last few years. But he still maintains his sense of humor and love of storytelling. 

Find more from Katy Gross on Instagram.

What is a Spotlight?

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