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 what have been called “searing, intimate” portraits that break down barriers and stereotypes and allow for the discovery and celebration of common ground.
Ottesen's second book, ACTIVIST: Portraits of Courage, will be released October 8, 2019 from Chronicle Books in partnership with Blackwell & Ruth. 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. 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.