IMAGE is everything to Brian Cooke - and it always has been.

Brian, 59, heads up NewsPrints, the York-based picture laboratory whose advanced photo ordering system appears on our website to give the public easy access to hard copy images - whether as normal bromides, on T shirts, mugs or even jigsaws.

His services are duplicated at dozens of other Newsquest newspapers throughout the country as well as with other publishing groups where he pledges to increase photo sales by at least 25 per cent. And with a turnover of about £500,000, it is gathering pace.

Brian's obsession with images began with formal photographic training at Hull College of Art and his first job at Walker's Studios in his home town of Scarborough.

He went on to become a photographic technician and part-time lecturer in photography at Teesside College of Art, but it was his night-time activity which propelled him into the rock world where image is all. , He began as a 'roadie' for 60s Scarborough rock group The Mandrakes and was soon its manager.

Its singer was Alan Palmer, later to become famously known as Robert Palmer who left The Mandrakes to join the Alan Brown Set.

The singer, who died three years ago, had always admired Brian's photographs of The Mandrakes and other local bands and he introduced Brian to Chris Blackwell, the boss of Island Records.

With Blackwell's backing, Brian moved to London with his graphic artist wife, Marylin and set up Visualeyes, in Notting Hill.

The new firm gained an unparalleled reputation with independent record companies for its photographic and design services, the production of record sleeves and associated advertising plus promotional material.

Brian and Marylin were to work closely with some of the biggest singers of the 1970s, including Roxy Music (Marylin recalls Bryan Ferry taking over her bathroom to do his stage make-up).

Visualeyes then bought a small photographic laboratory in Covent Garden and relocated to it, expanding their services to the entertainment industry by producing volume reproduction of photographs for the press and public relations.

Then Brian set up a separate company with fellow photographer/designer Trevor Key, forming Cooke Key Associates, which became the design agency for Virgin Records.

It was responsible for creating the famous Virgin logo still used today by the Virgin Group, and was involved with most printed promotional material for punk band the Sex Pistols.

In 1981 Cooke Key disbanded, both partners deciding to concentrate on photography again, rather than the chore of managing designers.

But it was in the mid-1980s that Brian began to exploit his growing interest in computers and the potential of electronic imaging and for years he stayed in the forefront of the new technology.

His big breakthrough came in 1996, when he developed an on-line photo ordering system for Virgin Records called The Digital Press Office, which allowed Virgin and all its licensees worldwide to order picture reproductions using the internet.

He recalls: "This became the catalyst for other Internet systems, including Photo Order which was designed and built by my new company, Digital Asset Solutions.

"Photo Order is rented out to photographic laboratories, who use it to offer internet sales to the public by their customers, who are mainly photographers.

The Photo Order system has so far handled more than £2.5 million worth of business, with just under half of this in the past 12 months."

From there evolved Photo Order Press which is used by NewsPrints Ltd, to sell news and archive pictures to a worldwide market 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And to ensure that Brian's image is riding high.