IAN Astle began photographing rock stars by smuggling his camera into the Birmingham NEC in a lunch box and his lens in an empty orange carton.

"I was just so desperate to photograph Crosby Stills and Nash as they were my heroes," says Ian.

The year was 1983, long before the dawn of the now ubiquitous mobile that turns so many concerts into a flash-flood.

It was different when Ian started. "I was in the fifth row from the front and everyone around me was amazed at me putting my camera together on my lap," he says.

He was soon to turn legit, acquiring photo passes for the standard "First three numbers and no flash", befriending tour and venue managers and coming to know the likes of Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler and The Waterboys' Mike Scott.

Images of both can be found in Ian's retrospective show, An Exhibition of Rock And Roll Memorabilia, whose combination of Ian's prints, vintage posters and signed photos covers every wall, even in the loo, at Spring Espresso in Fossgate, York. All items from his private collection are for sale.

"I've met Mark Knopfler a number of times; he was always very accommodating," says Ian. "Mike Scott kindly signed a photo 'There's that Ian Astle takin' my photo again...' when I presented him with a picture from the previous tour. "

Ian, who has lived in York for 13 years, was working in Sheffield at the time, where he taught photography.

From 1983, he combined his teaching with his concert photography, filming The Monkees, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Dire Straits, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Ry Cooder, Neil Young, Lloyd Cole, Def Leppard, Sting and a long-haired Simon le Bon.

He worked for the Guitarist magazine, Record Mirror, The Times, the Sheffield Telegraph, Smash Hits, Q, Mojo and Practical Photographer and Amateur Photographer.

"I wrote articles for those two about how to be a rock photographer," he says.

He has one particular memory of the crossover between school by day and photographer by night. "I was asked by Record Mirror to photograph Bros in Sheffield at the height of their boy-band fame and there were all these girls from the school there saying 'Hello sir'!" he says.

Ian, 62, has been collecting rock memorabilia for 45 years. Becoming a concert photographer could only help him in that passion.

"Being a photographer gave me access to musicians," he says. "If I could get an autograph, I would; musicians such as BB King, Robert Plant and Nils Lofgren."

The photography was more than a hobby, however. Ian had an eye for the memorable image, culminating in his nomination in 1989 for the Rock Photographer of the Year in the live reportage category at the Diamond Awards festival in Antwerp for his concert shots of BB King and Alice Cooper. He came second behind a Greek photographer.

"In those days, I always had two cameras, one with colour stock, one with black and white, 36-exposure film, and I'd go home and develop the film in my own dark room in a converted bedroom that I'd blacked out, with a sink in it," he says.

"My style of photography was that though I did concert photos, they became portraits from being close cropped. Being in the photographers' pit, I would be close up, with someone like Eric Clapton just feet away.

"I would use single-lens reflex cameras without a motor, and no flash allowed, concentrating on getting the image. The technical stuff, like the depth of field, came naturally, and it was always my thing, trying to isolate the subject so that it becomes a portrait in a fraction of a second.

"I was never bothered if there was movement in the picture if it captured the spirit of the performer. The essence was the expression, the smile, and you'd wait for the eye-to-eye contact, like with Paul Simon or Iggy Pop, when you have that feeling they're going to look your way. Then you catch that moment."

You may have noted that Ian talks in the past tense. He suffered a heart attack at the age of 40 in 1992, retiring early from teaching four years later and his rock photography gradually came to a halt too, but not before he was invited by Graham Nash to film Crosby Stills and Nash at the Filmore West in SanFrancisco for an Italian book by Francesco Lucarelli, who ran a CSN fanzine.

Ian and his wife moved to York in 2001, bringing them back to the city where they had lived in St John Street in his student days at York St John College – and where they now live again.

Ian has been working his way through his concert photography, archiving his work on a new scanner, making new prints and rekindling his love of photography.

From thousands of prints, he has selected 58 in black and white and colour for his self-printed photographic book, Rock And A Roll Of Film. "I've called it that because the photographs are from an earlier era before digital cameras," he says.

"I've done it all on computer and it's taken me many months so far. From now I'll be producing copies to order, so I'll be charging £65 for each limited edition, signed with a little certificate."

Looking through the book, Ian's best work is in black and white, as is so often the case. "We see everything in colour, so black and white is a total contrast," he says. "To me, it's more textural and I really like texture."

His old photographs and his memorabilia have been occupying the attic and the stairs, rather than rooms. "I have so much stuff I've kept and stored, it's time to pass it on to another generation," Ian has decided.

An Exhibition of Rock And Roll Memorabilia by Ian Astle runs at Spring Espresso, Fossgate, York, until September 9. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 8am to 6pm; Sundays, 9am to 5pm. Copies of his book Rock And A Roll of Film can be ordered there too.

You can follow Ian at rockandrollshots@gmail.com and on Twitter@ian_astle