Karen Graffeo is an artist who lives and works in Birmingham. While she specializes in photography, Graffeo also is a choreographer and installation artist. Early in her career as a photographer she was an assistant to Jerry Uelsmann and appeared in several of his hand-manipulated photographs. She earned her undergraduate degree from Jacksonville State University and went on to earn the M.A. in art education from the University of Alabama, where she also earned the MFA degree in photography and painting. she has taught at the University of Montevallo since 1990. Graffeo has also taught at University of Alabama at Birmingham.
UpSouth organized by Anne Arrasmith of Space One Eleven traveled to several venues across Birmingham, including Space One Eleven, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Visual Arts Gallery, and Agnes. It showed the work of artists Emma Amos and Willie Birch and writer bell hooks, as well as Ann Benton, Priscilla Hancock Cooper, Karen Graffeo, Lee Isaacs, Mary Ann Sampson, J. M. Walker and Marie Weaver.
In 1998 her work was selected for the book "Visions of Angels: 35 Photographers Share Their Images" 35 of today's foremost photographers present the idea of angels in a compendium by Nelson Bloncourt and Karen Engelmann, Foreword by Sophy Burnham, Publishers Stewart Tabori & Chang, Edison, New Jersey. Among the other artists included were, Audrey Bernstein, Gary Issacs, Blake Little, Jock Sturges and John Wimberley.
Graffeo's work was selected by Frank Simmons to be part of "co-dependent" from the exhibition series "From the Artist's Studio-Wish You Were Here " at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. This exhibition was organized by Diana Shpungin & Blane De St Croix. Other artists in the exhibition included Jeremy Bailey, Julia Chiang and Odili Donald Odita.
In 2005, Space One Eleven exhibited Graffeo's work alongside John Trobaugh for "In This Place". This exhibition was organized by M. K. Matalon to investigate place and location but to do so in relationship to contemporary Southern issues.
Graffeo's work was included in the Touring exhibition "Stories for Her" as well as, Southern Roots–Women’s Voices, an invitational at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, "Medical Revisions" exhibited in both New York City and Memphis, Tennessee. Her "Prodigal Daughters," exhibited in both Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia and included ballet as well as exhibition. "Reminding Myself," which premiered in Florence, Alabama also was also exhibited in New York City and used performance as a device.
Her photography has been published in "Black Warrior Review", "Aura" literary magazine, "Number", "Aperture", and in collaboration with Richard Giles in "Untitled" magazine.
Since 1999, Graffeo has occupied much of her time documenting the Rom, a gypsy people. She has composed this work from an ongoing series of trips and extended stays with the Roma outside of Rome, Italy resulting in many exhibitions.
Handwerker Gallery of Ithica College, Ithica, New York, exhibited "Let Us Now Praise the Rom: Documentary Photography by Karen Graffeo" in 2005, and the SACI Gallery in Florence, Italy exhibited her "Roma Series" in March 2007.
- Graffeo is the recipient of grants from the Alabama Arts Council<ref>http://www.arts.state.al.us/downloads/fall-99.pdf</ref>, the Andy Warhol Foundation through Space One Eleven and the Tuscaloosa Arts Council.
- The 2005-2006 University Scholar award went to Karen Graffeo, an assistant professor of art.<ref>Montevallo Today</ref>
- Graffeo received regional artist project grant from the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, Louisiana.
- "The Distance from the Heart of Things" by Ashley Warlick, Mariner Books, 1997 Cover by Graffeo (ISBN: 0395860318)
- "UpSouth" by bell hooks, Emma Amos and Antoinette Spanos Nordan, University Press, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1999, pp 70-73
- "Visions of Angels: 35 Photographers Share Their Images" by Bloncourt, Nelson & Engelmann, Karen, 1998 (ISBN: 1556708548)