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A Life in Pictures: Remembering Brian James Ellis

Published by Alexandra Kim · March 5th 2014

Dear friends,

We were so sad to learn that a fellow photographer, Brian James Ellis, passed away on February 21, 2014 after an arduous battle with cancer. We reached out to his very good friend and 500px community member, Ryan Weiss, to help us tell Brian’s story. We hope that his story gives you inspiration to enjoy your lives to the fullest and to treasure each day, as he did.

The photos in the following story are from Brian’s personal collection.

“In loving memory of our friend and fellow photographer, Brian James Ellis. Even with the adversities brought before you by an aggressive form of bone cancer, you ignored the odds and truly embraced life. Like you always said, cancer took your leg, but it couldn't take your spirit.

Brian was a creative and passionate artist. Looking through his photos you can see a visual timeline of his life; from his first black and white photos, to his first rounds of chemo, to eventually marrying his best friend, Ashley. Brian documented everything through the lens of his Nikon DSLR and on many occasions encouraged me to help document his battle with Osteosarcoma. In regards to his personal struggle with cancer, Brian was an open book, and an inspirational one at that.

In 2009, when he was just 19 years old, Brian was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. Soon after his diagnosis, it was decided that the best way to remove the cancer was to amputate his right leg. The amputation took place in November of 2009 and was followed by many long months of aggressive chemotherapy. Finally, by March of 2010, Brian was declared cancer-free and it was the best news possible; a true sign that he could continue on with his life and pursue a degree in the arts.

Almost two years passed, and by looking at Brian you would never know what he went though. The only outer remnant of his battle with cancer was his clunky prosthetic leg which, like everything in Brian's life, he embraced it's existence and denied it the victory of ever slowing him down.

It wasn't until Christmas 2011 that Brian, at age twenty-one, faced the reality of his cancer's recurrence. This time it had metastasized to his lungs. More chemo and invasive surgeries followed. Like the time before, Brian's cancer was believed to be in remission after his treatments, but by 2012 it reentered his life; and again it happened during Christmas.

On February 7th, 2013, Brian spent ten hours on a surgical table and in that time the doctor's removed fifteen cancerous tumors. They Argon laser-ed his chest, and treated him with a chemical wash for good measure. Brian then spent nine long days in the hospital.

Fast forward to a happier time, August 6th, 2013 when Brian officially made his best friend, Ashley, his wife. An intimate ceremony was held and the joy felt on that day made any problems seem far away, but life has a way of continuously testing ones strength and the months to follow were a true test.

The legions had returned and he was given a multitude of treatments and chemo drugs, but by September of 2013 Brian's kidneys were failing... and again, he was forced to spend more time in the hospital. After stabilizing, he was able to return home.

January 9th, 2014 was the day that Brian's remaining options became clear, there was little left to be done other than live the rest of his life out in comfort. He was given weeks to months with just cancer alone, but with added kidney failure his time was even more limited.

February 7th, 2014 was the beginning of hospice care. “Brian's pain is better managed and he seems comfortable. Now I am just trying to spend as much time with him as possible and enjoy his company while I can”, Ashley writes.

Sadly, after his five year battle with Osteosarcoma, Brian passed away on February 21, 2014 at the age of 23.

Brian's strength and resilience were immediately apparent to anyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. While many would allow such a destructive disease to cripple their last days on earth, Brian fulfilled as many of his dreams as possible and continued to share his love with family and friends. We've established a fundraiser in Brian's name to help cover some of the medical related debt that accrued during his treatments and we would also like to honor Brian by having a gallery showing featuring his photography work.

Rest easy, Brian.”

Please visit Ryan’s Youcaring page to donate to his fund. The proceeds will go towards helping Brian’s family recover some of the medical debt incurred from his hospital stays.

Ryan also told us that if there is enough donations he would like to host a gallery showing of Brian’s photos, a lifelong wish of his.

Edit: Ryan and Brian's wife, Ashley, have made a 500px profile for Brian and have uploaded some of the photos he took. Please feel free to check out his new profile.

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Eric Dumouchel  6 months ago
Amazing photo tribute and write up on the behalf of 500px. I am overwhelmed at the loss you guys have had to your family and send my deepest condolences. His photos are a sad but beautiful way to keep his love life mentality going strong. Best wishes for all of the folks who had the pleasure of meeting him.
Ashley Ellis  6 months ago
Thank you. He was an amazing husband and best friend. I will never meet anyone who will take his place or make me as happy as he did. I am just so grateful that 500px did this and is getting his story and photography out there for the world to see.
MaryAnn EA  6 months ago
To view Brian's photography work - go here - See more at: Not all of Brian's work is displayed, there is so much more we would love the world to see. Please donate so we can display his photos in a Gallery. There is one that has displayed an interest. Thank You and please share. Thank You to 500px also for writing Brian's story.
David Lowe  6 months ago
Incredible pictures, story and people.
Awesome Account
Reto Heiz  6 months ago
RIP :-(
Gustavo Cairo  6 months ago
Very sorry for your loss, Ashley and Ryan. May he rest in peace.
Ashley Ellis  6 months ago
Thank you Gustavo.
Crystal Johnson  6 months ago
Absolutely beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss, Ashley Ellis, and Ryan Weiss. His memory will still live on through you, and his work.
Ashley Ellis  6 months ago
Thank you.
Zdravko Horvat  6 months ago
RIP Brian
Ashley Ellis  6 months ago
I want to thank you for sharing my husband's story. Brian was a very special guy and touched everyone he met. It was his dream to get his work out to the photography community and I am overjoyed that your site and Ryan had helped him live out his dream. My husband may be gone but he left some behind some beautiful photography. Thank you for sharing it with the world. Shine on, my love :)
Quan Vu  6 months ago

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