Ottesen documents the stories of people’s lives by combining words and images into powerful and accessible stories that resonate with a broad range of audiences. Through her magazine work, books, and contributions to documentary film, Ottesen brings her audiences close to her subjects creating “searing, intimate” portraits that break down barriers and stereotypes and allow for the discovery and celebration of common ground.

Ottesen has contributed to The Washington Post Magazine over the past decade, and other credits include Esquire, Ms., and Washingtonian. Her first book, Great Americans, was featured widely, including on The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, NPR's All Things Considered, PRI; and in The San Francisico Chronicle, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, Reader's Digest, and Entertainment Weekly. Currently at work on a book about activists, Ottesen is also a fellow at the University of Virginia's Brown College.  Ottesen earned a bachelor's from Wesleyan University and a master's from Yale.  She returned to Washington, DC more than a decade ago, where she  lives with her husband and two children.