Interview by Jenny Bristol
Illustration by Rebecca Burgess
Anthony Ryan Schmidt is a 12-year-old boy who is passionate about cars—especially model cars—and shares that passion with the world through his compelling photography. In many of his photos, due to forced perspective, the cars look life-sized. In others, they just look fantastic.
Anthony has a real talent for photography, and his special interest in model cars gives him a photogenic and infinitely patient subject. In addition to collecting model cars and learning about cars in general, both old and new, Anthony modifies and distresses his models in his workshop himself and even designs his own sets, which helps make his photography look more realistic. He also has a supply of spare parts for use in repair and for junkyard photoshoots. Anthony has amassed a collection of about a thousand model cars that he keeps track of in a spreadsheet.
Anthony’s love of cars began pretty much from the beginning of his life, with the ability to name the makes and models of cars even at two years old. After starting to take photos of cars at six years old, he eventually started sharing his photography online, and his fanbase grew from there. With his family’s help with online engagement, he has become a bit famous. Anthony’s talent is clear, even at his young age. He doesn’t even edit his photos; they are just that good. We look forward to seeing where he takes this passion and talent in the future.
What does a typical school or weekend day look like for you?
Well, things are much different now due to COVID-19. Most days I have online school from 9am ‘til 11am, then I play video games for a while. Towards the afternoon I like to work in my workshop fixing up models and distressing them and modifying. I like to head out for photography around the “golden hour” when the sun is about to set and the lighting looks the best in my photography.
What hobbies or interests do you have outside of your school? Anything besides cars and photography?
I like to ride my bike and scooter in the neighborhood. I like to modify my bikes and scooters with underlighting. I like video games, Minecraft, Forza, and anything racing or car related. I’m a great cook; I like to make steak dinners, and roast beef, pizza.
How does being autistic help or hinder your schoolwork or hobbies?
I have misophonia, and sounds like chewing and pencil on paper are huge triggers, but I feel autism helps my hobbies because I see details others don’t. Learning everything about cars is calming for me and I have a great memory and can name just about any car from the 1800s ‘til the present day.
What kinds of changes or accommodations do you make in your life to allow you to be successful?
I’m sure to take my ear protection with me everywhere I go. I like to take cars with me and, if I’m feeling stressed, I look at them or take photos.
Have you experienced discrimination or bullying because of your autism or autistic traits?
I think most people have experienced bullying; I’d like to teach people more about autism to end bullying.
What advice would you give to other young autistic people to help them live their best life, or what advice would you give an autistic adult to help them feel supported in their continuing journey?
If you have a special interest, go with it, expand on it. It might turn into something amazing. I started out collecting models, then one day I started taking photos. One thing leads to another and it’s now inspiring lots of people to do the same.
What advice would you give parents of autistic kids about the best ways to support their kids in becoming their best selves? What advice from the “experts” do you think parents should ignore?
The experts told my parents that, “they better nip behaviors in the bud, or I wouldn’t amount to anything.” Punishing is not the answer. I’m glad my parents realized no one can predict anyone’s future, and [also realized] the reasons behind the behaviors.
What was one piece of advice you received that helped you be comfortable with who you are?
To not allow a diagnosis to discourage me from doing anything, I often say,
“It’s just a diagnosis, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great life.”
How did you get started with photography? What made you choose small cars to photograph? What kind of camera do you use?
I always collected cars since I was born, and I had a phone in my hand as long as I can remember. It was just natural that at 6 years old I started taking photos of them outside.
What do you love most about your special interest in cars? Do you have a favorite type of car?
I have no favorites; I love everything about cars and I love every car in the whole world.
Do you have a photography routine, or do you just take photos when the mood strikes you?
I really like routines; I take photos every day. It’s on my list of things I just have to do each day.
How does your family support your interests and autistic challenges?
My parents support my interests and are my biggest cheerleaders. My mother and grandmother run a Facebook group of over 140,000 followers to show off my photography. My mom helped create a coffee table book of my photography called Small Cars, Big Inspiration.
What’s your favorite part about having an Instagram following?
I don’t have favorites, but I post all my own photos on Instagram.
Is there anything else you want to share?
I have a big collection of model cars—about 1000 now—that I keep in a showroom. I was gifted a real car by a fan of my photography, a 1957 Ford Custom 300.
What are the best ways for people to connect with you?
- Website is anthonyryanschmidt.com
- Instagram is Anthony_Ryan_Schmidt
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