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Brian Winston

A tribute


Brian Winston
Photo by kind permission of Gail Vanstone

It was with great sadness that Bloomsbury learned of the passing of Brian Winston, a Bloomsbury and BFI author who also served as a member of the Screen Studies Editorial Advisory Board.

Brian’s work as a practitioner, teacher, and scholar of media and society, with a particular focus on documentary filmmaking, has been tremendously influential for the field of media studies. He made a hugely positive impact on the lives of countless students and fellow scholars.

As an author, he was an inspirational collaborator, always fizzing with ideas and enthusiasm, a one-person force field of creative energy combined with great kindness.

Brian was a Governor of the British Film Institute (BFI) and was remembered by colleagues in the BFI’s Publishing department as an important supporter of their work. Brian’s own BFI publications included a 1992 study of Humphrey Jennings’ Fires Were Started, the first and still one of only a few titles on documentary films published in the BFI Film Classics series, and Technologies of Seeing (1996) which argued for the importance of social contexts for understanding the development of photography, cinema, and television.

In 2008, BFI published a new edition of Brian’s Claiming the Real, which addressed the origins, development and contemporary landscape of documentary cinema. Brian addressed another long-standing concern, freedom of expression in public life and journalism, in his 2010 Bloomsbury book The Right to Offend.

Brian’s centrality in the field of documentary studies was evident in his 2017 publication The Act of Documenting, co-authored with Gail Vanstone and Wang Chi, which addressed the impact of digital media on the practice and status of documentary. He played a guiding role as editor of The Documentary Film Book, published in 2013, comprising writings by leading scholars that at once responded to the rich history and diversity of documentary film-making and mapped new directions for the field.

At the time of his death Brian was collaborating with fellow documentary scholars Hend Alawadhi, Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli , Gail Vanstone, and Patricia Zimmermann on The DocMedia Book, a new compendium mapping global documentary in the 21st century.

Brian Winston 1941 – 2022
May his memory be a blessing.


In tribute to Brian’s unique contribution to the field, we are sharing extracts from work by him included in Screen Studies: