Local boy uses photography as an outlet for his daily challenges with autism

Anthony is fixing one of his cars

Don’t ever ask Anthony Schmidt which car is his favorite. He loves every vehicle in his massive collection.

Anthony says he has hundreds of them, both antiques and newer versions. He gets new cars from fans and community members every week. Some come from eBay or yard sales, others show up on his doorstep without warning. His most recent vehicle came from fans upon returning from Thailand.

“I have over 600 now,” Anthony said. “A few months ago, it was 527. I keep getting new ones often, left and right.”

The 11-year-old collects and photographs the cars to overcome his daily challenges with autism. All Anthony needs is an iPhone camera and a car from his extensive closet of options. His mom, Ramona, has to choose the car before a shoot because he can’t pick a favorite.

“He takes a photo every day, at least one,” Ramona said. “We make that part of our day.”

Ramona said his love of cars became apparent at an early age. He was able to name every make and model of cars at 2 years old. Anthony began taking pictures of his miniature cars outside to make them look real by the time he was 6. At age 9, his mother started his Instagram fan page and it began to gain a following.

The sixth grader’s journey to fame began when Ramona shared a few of his photos on a Woodinville Facebook page. She said he understands perspective to make any sized car look real.

“Everyone freaked out,” she said. “He gets recognized in public. There was an overwhelming response from people asking for calendars or coffee table books.” Since his collection of photos has reached so many people, he even gets recognized at the grocery store.

He receives messages from other parents with children on the autism spectrum almost every day. Ramona said they tell him that his photos are a daily inspiration and they all look forward to his posts.

Anthony has a calendar featuring his work. He will occasionally add props and miniature people to cars to make the shoot look even more realistic. He said all the cars are different in their own ways.

“I have an excel spreadsheet and it’s already thousands of dollars’ worth of vehicles,” he said. Some of them are rare and can reach really high prices, Ramona added.

She said people are proud that he represents the community. When he grows up, Anthony said he wants to keep working on cars. In fact, working on cars runs in the family.

“My dad used to be a mechanic. He worked at Ford for over 30 years,” Ramona said. “He would rebuild engines in the garage and he would always have parts left over. The thing would run and he would say, ‘Well, it’s proof you made it better when you’ve got leftover pieces.’”

A lot of Anthony’s photos tell a little story and allow people to imagine a bigger picture. He has a calendar featuring his work. He said the photos are never edited. Perspective, scale and how to capture the light come naturally for him. Lights on the cars are personally built-in to create an added effect to the picture.

“iPhones take pretty good shots,” he said.

Anthony has indoor scenery in case the weather outside is bad. His current set-up has snow on the ground and a colorful backdrop. He specifically coordinated a red car to go with green grass below the snow to create a Christmas-themed photo.

He also has a workbench to fix up his cars. He has a separate closet full of broken-down or spare parts that are also used for junkyard photo shoots. Anthony also has UPS vehicles and dump trucks that are made to look actual-size.

One day in Seattle, Anthony, and his mom was on their way to a doctor’s appointment but he didn’t feel up to it and couldn’t go, so they decided to go to Gasworks Park instead. Ramona said every single photo that day turned out amazing.

“I feel like his best photos were always taken on a bit of an off day,” she said. “We were having a bad day and we just decided to take photos.”

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