12-year-old artisan creates automotive illusions that boggle the mind

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Facebook/Anthony Schmidt Photography

Anthony Schmidt is a photographer. An artist. An encyclopedia of automotive information who can tell you the make and model of every car he has ever seen. He’s published a book and a calendar, and his growing Facebook page has more than 140,000 followers.

Anthony Schmidt is a 12-year-old who is also autistic.

“So, autism… The things, the thoughts come into your mind fast,” he tells Eric Johnson, news anchor at Seattle’s ABC affiliate, KOMO 4. “And their brains … they like numbers. And even things.”

And details. Lots and lots of details.

Anthony Schmidt vintage patina model car near factory
Facebook/Anthony Schmidt Photography

Johnson hosts a weekly KOMO feature called “Eric’s Heroes,” in which he celebrates “little acts of sweetness and decency that go unnoticed.” Johnson recently spent time with Anthony and was amazed at not only the breadth of his knowledge but the depth of his creativity. Anthony doesn’t just collect miniature cars and trucks—and there are hundreds of them on the shelves in his bedroom at the family home in Woodinville, about 20 miles north of Seattle. It’s what Anthony does with those vehicles that creates awe and appreciation.

As Anthony sifts through a stack of canvas prints, Johnson explains that his favorite images show cars and trucks in their “natural setting. Except (this) is not a natural setting.” We learn that all the photographs were taken by Anthony, and they do not depict real cars; the automobiles are from his collection of scale-size models. Sitting in a small workshop that doubles as the family’s laundry room, Anthony builds miniature buildings and scenes, and then he photographs the cars outside in a way that creates the amazing illusion that they’re life-size.

Anthony Schmidt vintage model cars at outdoor movie theatre
Facebook/Anthony Schmidt Photography

With his mother’s help, Anthony maintains his own website, where he sells prints, a calendar, t-shirts, and a 132-page coffee table book that he created through Kickstarter,  Small Cars, Big Inspiration, which has already sold 1000 copies.

“It’s truly because of the autism …” says his mother, Ramona. “It’s not despite autism, it’s because of it.”

Anthony also maintains a popular Facebook page, which led to an unexpected request for assistance from a police department in New York. Unable to identify a car that fled the scene of a crime, the police sent a blurry photo to Anthony, who recognized the vehicle’s wheels and the “scoop” of the rear windshield. “I said it was a 2002 Mercury Montego.” Armed with that information, the police solved the crime and arrested a suspect.

Anthony Schmidt vintage chevrolet pickup and camper van
Facebook/Anthony Schmidt Photography

To conclude his story about Anthony, Johnson arranged for him to meet a kindred spirit in a nearby town, an older gentleman named Ron Nardoney. “The results,” Johnson tells us, “were magical.” Nardoney loves the 1950s and created a tribute to the era, a place he calls Nardoland. Like Anthony, Ron has created “scenes”—life-size ones—and also collects miniature automobiles. Anthony asks which one is his favorite.

“That’d be hard to pick, I guess,” Ron says.

“Same deal with me,” Anthony adds. “I can’t pick favorites.”

We can safely say that Anthony Schmidt is one of ours.

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