Clever photography brings model cars to life
Anthony Schmidt has loved cars since birth. “It’s common for people with autism to have a special interest, and for me it was always cars,” he said. Car And Driver, dictating his answers through his mother, Ramona Schmidt, as telephone conversations with strangers can be a challenge for him. His first words were the names of car makes and models, and by the age of three he could name them all.
He began building and collecting model cars soon after, and at the age of six he began photographing them. It was then that he made a startling discovery. If he lined up his scale models in a larger background scene and positioned the lens appropriately, he could produce the illusion that the car was life-size. “I was amazed at how real I could make it with the right camera angle and background,” he said.
He started posting his photographs on social media and the interest was great. He now has more than 45,000 followers on Instagramand nearly 140,000 on Facebook. Two years ago, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to self-publish the first coffee table book of his images. More than 750 people pledged for a total of $45,000. “I was only 12 at the time, and the most amazing thing was how many people believed in me.” He has since sold 4000 copies of this lovely collection, Small cars, big inspiration.
Not content to stop here, Schmidt has also created photo calendars, postcards, greeting cards, t-shirts and copies of his prints, all of which are for sale on their website. And he is currently hard at work on his second book, Changing perspectivewhich can be pre-ordered now and is expected to ship in the last quarter of 2022.
All this production is the product of his extreme interest and dynamism. “I spend hours in my studio every day, painting and rebuilding my models – some of them I take apart, paint and rebuild with modifications, or make them look rusty,” he said. he stated, referring to his collection of 1:24 and 1:18 scale die-cast cars, which he poses in his pictures. His vast collection, curated on glass shelves in his family’s home outside Seattle, numbers more than 3,000. “Many of them were sent to me by fans of my photography,” he said. he adds.
His customization process is compelling, but the real magic of his photography comes from placement and perspective. Although some of his shots are spontaneous (he’ll spot inspirational spots on his way home after buying a new model), most of them are determined in advance. “I have a lot of theme ideas and plan a lot of my photo shoots in advance,” he said.
This can include complex concepts that can take months to complete. For example, last summer, he imagined a series around school car parks. “I researched schools in the area and the years they were built,” he said. “My idea was to make the evolution of the school car park through the decades.” He’s nearly finished that series, though he’s still got to finish the 2010s, the 1890s, and our present time.
However, Schmidt’s automotive interests don’t stop with small cars, especially as he approaches the age of 16 – he is looking forward to getting his driver’s license. “I consider myself a collector,” he said. “And I also want to have a big collection of real 1:1 cars one day.”
He left well. He already owns a 1957 Ford Custom 300 given to him two years ago by a fan of his work. A local automobile club held a grand parade when he drove her home. “Since then, we’ve been taking it to car shows and car cruises. I have big plans to fix it and make it worthy of a SEMA show,” he said. Already anticipating the need for wheels when the Ford is in store for modification, he has just purchased a second car with the revenue from his calendar sales, a 1959 Studebaker Silver Hawk.
Recognizing the need for a daily driver, he is now considering a third purchase. “Since I have two classic cars, it might be fun to get something totally opposite.” Maybe an electric vehicle, something really futuristic?”
Eventually, he hopes to own a car from every decade of automotive history, though he’s (wisely? recklessly?) careful to place a limit on his future possessions. “There is no number of goals,” he said. “There are not too many cars.”
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