Reed is best known for having recovered the lost work of an entire community of photographic artists. The result was the 1986 exhibition and catalogue, Japanese Photography in America, 1920-1940, which the Getty Museum described as “groundbreaking.” The exhibition traveled to such museums as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Oakland Museum, Oakland, California, and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. He curated an updated version of the exhibition in 2016, entitled Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920-1940, for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Art critic Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times named the exhibition one of the ten best exhibitions of 2016.

He co-authored Pictorialism in California: Photographs, 1900-1940, published jointly by the J. Paul Getty Museum & The Huntington Library (1994). Among his essays are Richard Pettibone in Forty Years of California Assemblage, for the UCLA Wight Gallery (1989), Meeting Mr. Chinn in Benjamen Chinn: At home in San Francisco, published by the Chinese Historical Society of America (2003), Robert Hansen in Robert Hansen: Selected Works, 1957-1987, NoHo Modern (2006), Hy Hirsh: Experiments in Filmmaking and Photography, published by Paul Hertzmann, Inc. (2007), A Reluctant Collector in Lost & Found: Photographs from the Dennis Reed Collection (2006), Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Perceptions: Bay Area Photography, 1945-1960, Art Gallery, Los Angeles Valley College (2006), The Wind Came from the East: Asian American Photography, published in Asian American Art by Stanford University (2008), Sweet and Sour: Photographs of Charles Wong and Dualities: The Photographs of Irene Poon in Point/Counterpoint: Black and White Photography by Irene Poon, both published by Velvet Lens Cap (2009 and 2011), Don’t Make Me Laugh: Art and Humor in Southern California in No Laughing Matter, Art Gallery, Los Angeles Valley College (2010), and the entry on Pictorialism for the Oxford University Press, The Grove: Encyclopedia of American Art (online), and he wrote the catalog for Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920-1940, for the Japanese American National Museum.

Reed remains a practicing artist, photographer and designer. In 2012, he founded One Cat Press ( and published Japanese American Photography, 1920-1940: Commemorative Edition, a limited-edition art book that celebrated an exhibition done earlier, in 1982, at Los Angeles Valley College. The book won the American Institute of Graphic Arts 50 Best Books Award, widely considered the top book design competition in the country. He won the same award earlier, as well, in 1986, for a New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition publication, Parallels and Contrasts: Photographs from the Stephen White Collection. Over the years, his projects won other awards including, on several occasions, the Award of Excellence from the Art Museum Association. In 2015 -16, he was named a Southern California notable designer by the Typecraft Design Library. Two books designed by Reed were featured in the exhibition Pushing the Press at the A+D Museum, Los Angeles, in 2016.

Also in 2016, Los Angeles Harbor College Art Gallery presented Allegory for the Present: Merwin Belin & Dennis Reed, which included photographs taken by Reed since 2000. In 2017, his photographs were included in an exhibition, entitled Tow Truck Towing a Tow Truck, at As-Is.LA Gallery in the Pico Union district of Los Angeles. Dennis has shown at other colleges and nonprofit venues, and As-Is.LA Gallery continues to show Reed’s work - see the Recent Exhibition page.

Reed has lectured at the De Young Museum, The Huntington Library, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Oakland Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Japanese American National Museum, the Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Boston University Art Gallery, The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Tacoma Art Museum, University of California, Irvine, and the Skirball Cultural Center, among others. He has appeared on NPR several times, including the program, The Story, in 2010. He also appeared in the art biography, Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray, an award-winning documentary produced by the Japanese American National Museum. Interviews with Dennis were published in Art on Paper magazine (January-February 2008) and in Black & White Magazine (October 2015). Most recently, he appeared on Tyler Green's, Modern Art Notes  podcast #464 (September, 2020).

For some forty years he has collected art, focusing on works by California artists, primarily photographers who were active before 1965. Selections from his collection have been shown in such exhibitions as Made in California, 101 Years of California Photography, The History of Women Photographers, and After the Photo-Secession, Siqueiros in Los Angeles, among others. Institutions showing his collection include: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Huntington, Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Oakland Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Corcoran Gallery (Washington, D.C.), Crocker Museum of Art, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, Boston University, Cornell University, Noguchi Museum NY, Autry Museum, and The Henry Art Gallery, among others. Lost & Found, Photographs from the Dennis Reed Collection, was mounted by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 2006. In the summer of 2019, the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired Reed's collection of Japanese American photography. Selected photographs were shown in Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photography at the main Getty Museum site.

Reed studied with painter Vic Smith at Cal State Fullerton, receiving his BA/MA in drawing and painting. In 1980, he became a member of the Art Department at Los Angeles Valley College, where he was Art Gallery Director, as well. He retired from the college as the longtime Dean of Arts in 2012. He continues to teach photography as a Professor Emeritus of Art. He was the former Chair of the Photographic Arts Council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and he was a founding board member of the independent Photographic Arts Council / Los Angeles.

Dennis teaching drawing at Los Angeles Valley College, mid-1980s.

​​dennis reed biography 

The Story on NPR, 
January 11, 2010 

Jim Cuno and Virginia Heckert discuss the Dennis Reed Collection on the Getty's ART & IDEAS podcast: 

all content © dennis reed 2018 / images copyrighted by dennis reed as of date shown next to image

Dennis in 1994 with a new copy of his Getty Museum book, Pictorialism in California; Photographs, 1900-1940, as pictured in the News Chronicle​

Dennis Reed by Phil Highley

  • NPR The Story7:23

Dennis joined Dick Gordon as the second guest on an NPR episode of The Story. Below is a short clip from the longer interview.

Dennis appeared on Tyler Green's MODERN ART NOTES in October of 2020 - episode #464: Torkwase Dyson and Dennis Reed: