Spring 2013 Diane von Furstenberg by Walter Grio, Fashiontographer

It’s a surprising fact, but a fact nonetheless: one of the most influential fashion photographers in the world lives right here in Washington, D.C. He has more Facebook fans than Style.com, Women’s Wear Daily, the Sartorialist, W Magazine, and Vogue Japan, and his photographs reach millions of people every month. Another surprising fact: he’s donated all $125,000 raised through his fashion influence to charity, and for him, fashion photography is simply a part-time hobby.

We’re talking about Fashiontographer Walter Grio, a gentleman with a full-time job at Oracle. From 9 to 5, he manages and strategizes projects with U.S. federal agencies. In 2006, he was assigned to work on a project in Calgary for Oracle. While there, he picked up a Nikon D50 and snapped a few photos of the national parks and the Calgary Stampede (the “World Cup” of rodeo). Later, he was assigned to an Oracle project in Sweden, and met a makeup artist who needed help launching her portfolio.

Grio with Isabel Deyo, the second recipient of his Shoot for Change Scholarship

“I knew nothing about makeup or fashion, but I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to photograph three Swedish models,” he said playfully. “As I was looking at the photos, I knew that fashion photography was something for me.” One month later, Shoot for Change was born.

Shoot for Change is Grio’s raison d’ętre – he shoots fashion photography and donates all of the proceeds to non-profits (primarily non-profits that promote the arts). He used to let his clients select the non-profit, but recently switched, committing to the American Ballet Theatre in New York as his primary benefactor. Now, there are two ballerinas dancing at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre who otherwise wouldn’t, thanks to his Shoot for Change Scholarship.

Grio backstage at Tsumori Chisato Fall/Winter 2013 Pręt ŕ Porter in Paris, March 2013

Perhaps Grio’s wisest move was adopting the Fashiontographer moniker early in the game. That’s the name of his Facebook page, which currently boasts over 425,000 fans and grows exponentially every day. The Facebook page is a magnet for fashion fans. The content has evolved since July 2011, first starting with his original photography from New York Fashion Week, and now includes runway reviews, exclusive interviews and fashion editorials, photos from fashion campaigns, and more. He also has tough-to-get press credentials for Paris Fashion Week, and posts original photography from those runways, too. On the website, Fashiontographer.com, there’s an online boutique.

Another one of his wise moves, he says, was moving to the District. “Since I moved to Washington DC in 2009, Shoot for Change’s total donations went from less than $10,000 to going over $120,000,” he said.  “My skills or talent obviously didn’t change significantly to reflect that increase in donations over that time period, but what changed was that I moved to Washington, DC.”

“It just shows you the kind of town we live in, and the type of generous people who live here.”

All photos via Fashiontographer Walter Grio