I am a lifetime photographer, preferring to use my camera as a personal means of expression for what I care about. I studied filmmaking at Chapman University and photography at Fullerton College, both in Orange County, California, where I live.

David Reeve Gladiator School

My current project is “Gladiator School,” a series of photo essays documenting life inside a notorious juvenile prison. In each episode, I interview and photograph an adult who was formerly incarcerated as a youth, detailing his story and exploring themes such as PTSD. Closed in 2010, Youth Training School (YTS) had a reputation for mayhem, violence, and murder that earned it the name Gladiator School. It was there that minors would harden themselves for survival, only to be returned to the streets — more troubled and volatile than when they arrived.

“Gladiator School” has had 70,000 viewers and was featured by the editorial staff at Medium.com. The series is curated by Pete Brook (PrisonPhotography.org and Wired Magazine art columnist). Annie Gilbertson of NPR radio called the series “Incredible…captures violence, lost boys and state shortcoming.” The series has been featured by the journal Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

Gladiator School debuted in October 2023 as live exhibition at University of Redlands in California. Twenty-one photos from the collection were hung in the School of Education building for 30 days. A lecture and panel discussion took place October 26th.

For ten years, I’ve taught photography to kids living with Cancer through an organization called The Pablove Foundation. Weekly lessons take place at a child’s home, hospital bed, or in classrooms at distinguished art galleries. I teach photography as a one-to-one mentor and friend to the student, helping them to tell their Cancer story with a camera. My work was featured in an Emmy-winning documentary for KCET public television, which told the story of my relationship with a student named Parker, who later died of a brain tumor.

Some of my pictures have been sold here and there to stock libraries, and newspapers like the New York Post and Yahoo News; I won National Geographic’s Your Shot competition in 2010.

Gladiator School Artist Statement

“Gladiator School” is a street term given to the most dangerous juvenile prisons in the country, where wards become hardened for survival in men’s prisons. The most notorious Gladiator School in the nation was Youth Training School in Chino, California. This “flagship” institution of the California Youth Authority held up to 2,000 wards. It boasted state-of-the-art security, classrooms, and counseling.

To the outside world, it was a school for troubled youth. But inside, its secrets were tightly held.

In an ongoing series of photo essays of difficult but important testimony, “Gladiator School: Stories from Inside YTS” provides a history of life inside California’s most notorious juvenile prison. Closed in 2010, Youth Training School (later known as Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility) had a reputation for mayhem, violence, and murder.

Survivors of YTS have come forward to tell stories of daily life inside. This photo essay series will relay and respect their stories: Juvie told by the ones who were there.


San Bernardino Sun
“University of Redlands hosts photo exhibit telling stories from now-closed Chino youth prison”

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
“Photographer Helps Men From California’s Old ‘Gladiator School’ Tell Stories Of Their Survival”

Orange County Register
“Children with cancer express themselves with cameras”

Witness LA
“Gladiator School: Memories From The Terrible Past Of California’s Youth Prisons”