Anthony Schmidt is 14 years old and already a sensation on TikTok. His photos of toy cars have earned him more than 500,000 followers on the popular social media app. The videos he posts garner tens of thousands of likes and shares.
His niche is taking pictures of toy cars and making them seem life-sized. He chooses backgrounds to help make the photos seem realistic and his fan base. Even more impressive, he does all of this on his iPhone.
Anthony told Spokane news station KHQ that he took a picture one day and decided that this was what he wanted to do. He went on to say: "I enjoy it; it's something I do every day without fail."
His mother, Ramona, says that her son is able to create these images because he has Autism. She told People Magazine: "It's because of his Autism that he's able to do this. His visual perception is off the charts whenever it's tested."
Ramona also said that the photographs and the reception to them have been good for her son's self-esteem. "People with Autism are visual thinkers and very detailed people. It's an advantage for him. And the photography is such a good boost for his self-esteem."
It's also helped him build a business that will be around for a long time to come.
His social media business is thriving. According to Life Hacker, his TikTok account can bring in about $450 a month, which is likely growing every day. Anthony also has a calendar that he publishes. Last year he sold more than 5,000 copies at $20 apiece, meaning he grossed about $100,000.
He keeps costs down by having his family help. His grandma Betty helped with packaging and shipping the calendar. And Ramona helps with the picture taking; since Anthony is about a year out from getting his learner's permit, she drives him around to where he needs to go.
Adding another layer to his business, Anthony opened an exhibit at the Kolva-Sullivan Gallery in Spokane on April 1, according to KHQ. The local car club put on a parade for him to help gain attention for the showcase.
On April 29, the gallery is hosting an open house for the public to come in and see the pictures that the teen has taken.
Anthony says that he has no plans to stop. In fact, he says that eventually, he would like to travel around the country and take pictures. He told People that he doesn't anticipate problems because it's easy for him to work out how a photo should look.
That attention to detail has earned him a lot of fans.
One of those fans is Greg Wilkinson, who gifted Anthony a classic car when he was 12. The teen told People his family asked why the older man gave such a generous gift; "When we asked why he did it, he just said, 'I don't know I just felt he should have it.'"
It helped launch another goal of Anthony's, owning a garage full of vintage cars. He says that he loves cars and wants to own more than Jay Leno.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is another member of Anthony's fan club. He took the time to tweet out about the teen on April 2. He wrote: "From the age of six, Anthony has expressed his love for photography. He now shares his larger-than-life iPhone images of model cars with fans around the world and his creativity really shines through!"
Cook also included a link to Anthony's Instagram account in the tweet.
Many note that the exhibit and Mr. Cook's tweet came in April, which is Autism Acceptance Month. The Autism Society states that there has been a rise in children diagnosed with Autism in the last 10 years. From 1 in 125 kids in 2010 to 1 in 54 kids in 2020.
Anthony encourages people to chase their goals and not let anything get in their way. He told KHQ: "Always remember to chase your dreams never give up - autism or not - it's just a diagnosis."