MONTEVALLO—Karen Graffeo, professor of art and director of the photography concentration at the University of Montevallo, has received a Fulbright Senior Scholar award for 2012-2013 to Romania. She plans to teach art studio courses and study the country’s multi-ethnic heritage and history through art. She says that her goal is to continue her photographic essay, Let Us Now Praise the Roma, and to deepen her understanding of current Roma cultural initiatives. She says, “I have long been fascinated with the rich political history and multicultural heritage in Romania, especially in relation to the Roma, Romania’s largest minority population.”
Graffeo first traveled to Romania in 2002, accompanying a Romanian doctor on her gratis rounds in Roma villages. As Dr. Anna Popescu treated patients, Graffeo distributed supplies and photographed the Roma as they went about their daily tasks in the most remote communities. Her photographic essay, Let Us Now Praise the Roma, was begun during that excursion and “embraces the philosophy that it is the poorest of the poor who most need a voice.”
Graffeo’s first encounter with the Roma occurred in 1999 when she photographed a Muslim Roma encampment in Bologna, Italy. These refugees had fled the genocide in Kosovo and were striving to rescue family members still in the war zone. She has since returned to Italy and Romania to continue to document the socio-economic progress of the Roma in both countries.
A teacher for more than 20 years, Graffeo also has exhibited her art nationally and internationally. Her work includes multi-media, alternative processes and documentary photography as well as performance-based work. She was named Montevallo’s University Scholar in 2005.