Building my photoblog using Python

The origin story

I like taking photos.

I have grown fond of black and white ones, which have a simple, mysterious vibe that I enjoy. Some time ago, I started looking for a place to publish a few of my photos online. I found none. I don’t like Instagram, and other platforms were either too expensive, too ugly, or plagued with ads. In most cases, they looked more like a regular social media platform full of ’like’ and ‘share’ buttons than a place where photography actually matters.

At some moment during that research I found, a black and white photography website owned by Anders Jensen-Urstad. I immediately fell in love with the simplicity of its design and with the fact that each photo takes as much screen space as it can. “This is how a photography website should look like”, I thought.

Anders’s website is powered by a script of his own: I read the instructions and launched my photoblog: monocromo.

A word of caution
The purpose of monocromo is to depict artistic photography. Be aware that some of the content may be considered inappropriate in certain contexts (e.g., work environments). Viewer discretion is advised.

Taking the idea to Python

Anders’s script is great. But, as it usually occurs with these things, I wanted to make some customizations1. is a shell script, and I lean towards Python. I decided that I would translate it from shell to Python to achieve three things:

  • Make the customizations I wanted.
  • Practice Python.
  • Learn a little bit about shell.

It took me a while to figure out how to address the problem. Once I decided on the approach I took a full-day sprint and wrote, which is now the engine that powers my black and white photoblog. Essentially, it takes the core idea of Anders’s work and applies it into a object-oriented paradigm.

This is the structure of the project:

β”œβ”€β”€ monocromo
└── src
    β”œβ”€β”€ html
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ head.html
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ index.html
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ index.xml
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ link.html
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ newer.html
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ older.html
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ post.html
    β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ rss_item.xml
    β”‚Β Β  └── style.css
  • src/ is the core module. It implements a class Photo with methods to generate the different photo files.
  • src/ implements a DataManager to interact with the text file that acts as a database.
  • src/ includes a dataclass that represents the minimal configuration needed of the website to be built.
  • The Builder in src/ interacts with the three previous components and implements the logic to, well, build the website.
  • src/ includes utility functions.
  • src/html/. holds the .html, .xml and .css template files.
  • The CLI defined in src/ provides a method to add a new photography to the database and another one to build the site.
  • Finally, monocromo is the executable.

Next steps

The source code can be improved in several areas. It does a decent job β€”which means that I get what I want, but I have some ideas for it.

  • Make the database file a YAML one. This will make easier to add some metadata to each photo.
  • Improve the README and leave clear instructions on how to use the script.
  • Add an About page.
  • (Optional) Display some EXIF metadata in each photo.
  • I already received a feature request that I intend to take.

  1. In many of such times, “customizations” mean “I want to write it from scratch.” ↩︎