Anthony Schmidt has a view of the world around him that is uniquely his. Luckily, this talented teenager shares his artistic vision for others to enjoy. His passion for cars, attention to detail, and dedication to his craft shift perspectives about what makes people different.
“It’s common for people with autism to have a special interest, and for me, that was always cars,” Schmidt said. “I think it’s important to talk about autism to help remove the stigma. I feel autism can be a superpower when it comes to certain things. Autism is why I have my special interest and hyperfocus on cars. People with autism are visual thinkers, and we just see things differently than most people. I always say it’s just a diagnosis and shouldn’t stop you from chasing your dreams.”
Schmidt has always loved cars, being able to name models of cars in grocery store parking lots at the age of three and then photographing his model car collection at the age of six.
“I was amazed at how real they looked,” he said. “My photography has gotten better over time. I taught myself all the tricks to forced perspective, built platforms and added miniature buildings too.”
Forced perspective, if you didn’t know the term already, is a visual technique used in architecture and photography that capitalizes on the optical illusion of subjects closer to the viewer, which seems larger than features in the background located farther away.
Schmidt masterfully captures the concept by photographing detailed miniature cars close up, so the vehicles appear to be life-sized against a real-life background. The illusion is made complete after he spends hours adding details such as rust spots on bumpers, miniature footprints or tire tracks in the scenes and period-correct signs in the background to match the particular era of his classic models. The hobby became a business after his mother Ramona started posting his images on social media, and the likes, followers and shares rolled in.
“I remember when we first started Instagram, the goal was to get 100 followers. I now have 44,900 on Instagram, Facebook has hundreds of thousands, and Tik Tok now has almost 600,000 followers,” he said.
Schmidt self-published and sold 4,000 copies of his first coffee table book, “Small Cars, Big Inspiration,” at the age of 12 and just finished a second book called “Shifting Perspectives.” He has since had a gallery show of his work in Spokane, calendars and commissioned photo shoots alongside media appearances and calls for him to be a guest speaker at classic car club and photography events.
A fan, Greg Wilkinson, was so inspired by his photography that he gave him a 1957 Ford Custom 300 two years ago that Schmidt is renovating for car shows and cruise-ins. But he has also since bought himself a Studebaker Silver Hawk to drive when he is old enough to have a license, that is.
“It was almost time for them to close, and we were stuck in traffic, so I called them up. I said, ‘You have a customer. Can you please stay open? We are on our way,’” Schmidt said. “Thankfully, they did stay open. They had a lot of cool cars to choose from, but this one stuck out because it was all original and in perfect condition and in my budget.”
After several other classic car dealers brushed off his requests to see their cars, not taking this 14-year-old’s inquiries seriously, Schmidt found his car when one took a chance and stayed open.
“I really liked the big fins,” he said. “I bought it that day. I guess it’s a lesson to all car salesmen never to judge a book by its cover.”