Picturing Paradise: Photography by Frances Czapski

By Kath Usitalo 

After traveling the globe, photographer Frances Czapski found herself in Paradise. As in, the village near her family’s cottage on Lake Superior, their retreat from life in the Detroit area.

Frances Czapski poses in front of a wall of her pictures which showcase the beauty of Lake Superior.
Frances Czapski in her photography gift shop in Paradise, Michigan.

When Frances was 10, her family moved to Marquette. As a teen, she worked at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum gift shop, which sparked her interest in retail. She instead majored in English at Milwaukee’s Mount Mary College, where a photography class introduced her to shooting and developing film. “In the darkroom, when I watched the photo appear, I was hooked. This is it. This is what I want to do.”

Frances Czapski's gift shop
Frances Czapski's gift shop

While teaching English in Germany, Frances discovered the camera was a way to explore and see the world. In three months roaming New Zealand, the self-taught photographer’s camera got a workout. “It became a driving passion in my life.”

Frances decided to pursue her long-held dream of owning a gallery and gift shop in Paradise.

She returned to the States, saved money from multiple waitressing jobs, and in 2021, opened Photography by Frances Czapski in a rustic cabin with a creaky screen door. Photos are displayed in vintage crates, and greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles and other gifts fill the cozy shop where the music of Patsy Cline plays non-stop.

A photo of Whitefish Point Lighthouse in Paradise Michigan
Czapski's work shows the rural beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Inspired by the intensity of Lake Superior and remoteness of the area, Frances focuses on capturing immediate surroundings and interpreting the woods, water and wildlife at all times of day, in all seasons. Her images range from sweeping views of the Great Lakes to abstracts of ice bubbles on rocks.

“Looking through the lens, I have been forced to slow down. I love that aspect of it, being able to get out, disconnect, listen to the lake, connect with nature,” she says. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself---is this real?”

Much of Czapski's work captures the Great Lakes and rivers around the Upper Peninsula.

Photography by Frances Czapski Gallery & Gift Shop is open May-October. Visit photographybyfrancesczapski.com.