“City of Ghosts” took Aaron Hollett and reporter Matt Brown to the city of Raqqa in Syria, the capital of the Islamic State for four years, immediately after the ISIS fighters were pushed out by coalition forces. Hollett shot for 16 straight days, averaging 15 hours a day, in a place totally cut off from the world—no rule of law, no water, no electricity, no phones. The population were slowly trickling back into their obliterated city.
Hollett wrote in his entry, “We faced intense logistical challenges and threats to our safety, mainly unexploded bombs that were planted as booby traps by ISIS in most buildings. It was a harrowing experience, not knowing if your next step would trigger an explosion.”
Aaron Hollett is the Middle East camera operator and editor for the ABC. He started his career as a photographer at the Queensland Times newspaper in 1995, and worked for Seven News before joining the ABC in 2010. This is his third Walkley win.
“This is exceptional camerawork by Aaron Hollett, under extremely difficult circumstances, showcasing the complete devastation of Raqqa and its people. The drone footage is focused and well measured, and shows the viewer just how dangerous the area still is. Hollett takes his audience on an amazing visual journey, engaging with the people and landscape while showing their stories of survival and their hopes for the future as they rebuild this devastated city.”