IT all started for Paul Berriff when he had two paper rounds, one in the morning, one after school, when he was 12/13.

"It was in 1959/60, when there were these two news feature publications, Picture Post and Life Magazine, which were very heavy and I had to carry them both on the same paper round," recalls Paul, now 70. "Both would have amazing pictures with the big stories and the photographers would go beyond the normal press photographers in what they did.

"I thought, one day I want to be a photographer for Picture Post or Life Magazine. It didn't happen, but I ended up at the Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds."

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Frozen In Time: Paul Berriff's portrait of Ringo Starr

The year was 1963, when the teenage Yorkshireman signed up as a trainee editorial assistant, step one on the ladder to becoming either a reporter or press photographer.

To further his chances, the forward-thinking young snapper photographed the pop stars of the day as they toured the northern cinema circuit of Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster and the rest. This brought him into contact with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Searchers, Marianne Faithfull and Sandie Shaw, all now featured in Berriff's wonderful retrospective of 70 photographs at Pocklington Arts Centre.

Flash forward 50 years and Paul did fulfil one wish with Life Magazine. "The magazine's picture editor contacted me as they were doing a book for Time Life to mark Paul McCartney's 70th birthday, and they so loved my picture of Paul called Twist & Shout that they put it on the back cover, so after 50 years I'd finally made it into Life!"

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Twist & Shout: Paul McCartney photographed in concert by Paul Berriff

His negatives lay dormant in a box in his Bedale attic for years, but when he searched for them he found them in pristine condition, as when he had taken his pop portraits with the same Rolleiflex camera he still uses today.

How did Paul manage to secure access to The Beatles and the Stones et al at such a tender age, filming Paul McCartney on no fewer than four occasions? “Using my press credentials, I made contacts with the managers of venues around the county and managed to gain unprecedented access backstage to take pictures of what were then up-and-coming stars,” he says.

“Only a few months later, the singers and bands would become national and international stars and would never again give such an opportunity to a teenager.”

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Photographer Paul Berriff with his camera

Unwittingly, Berriff had found himself at the epicentre of the new pop scene, these photographs primarily being taken to help him refine his photographic skills. "I was just practising my photography," he says. "I was trying to see how far I could push exposures, rather than doing commercial work, so I was experimenting with my technique, rather than with my subject matter, when The Beatles were the bottom of the bill and Helen Shapiro was the top.

"The only light in the dressing room would be a 40 watt bulb, a very dim light that produced those pictures with a slow exposure that's now a very fashionable photographic style."

Paul recalls his encounters with Paul McCartney. "I said I was training to be a photographer, so he would pose for me as I was learning my trade, and he was learning his...though he did rather better than me," he says.

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Playing At Trains: John Lennon as the driver, Paul McCartney as the guard, photographed by Paul Berriff

Berriff went on to embrace colour photography too, filming Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, but his black and white works linger longer in the memory.

"I read somewhere that the eye tends to spend longer spanning an image if it's in black and white, rather than colour," says Paul. "I love black and white – I think it's still a great format – and I'm also an 'available light' man. I don't like flashguns; I prefer available light because it shows life in photos as we look at it."

Paul has one particular memory of being in the right place at the right time: the Huddersfield ABC in 1963, where The Beatles would be playing that night. "I arrived at about 3.30pm with my then girlfriend and we knew it was going to be an hour before they arrived, but then only ten minutes later, the stage lights suddenly came on and The Beatles were there, setting up to rehearse I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

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Bad Boy Next Door: Paul McCartney. Picture: Paul Berriff

"For the next two hours they performed it to just the two of us, playing it over and over again as that night was going to be the first time they'd played it live," says Paul. "It went on to become their best-selling single in both Britain and America!"

Paul's picture of The Beatles at play, pretending to be on a train, sums up the freshness, the natural ease, of his photography. "By then The Beatles knew my face and knew what I wanted to do with my photographs, so John said, 'why don't we 'play at trains', as long as I can be the driver and Paul has to be the guard at the back'. They grabbed some chairs and I had my photo," he says. "I think this is how we best remember The Beatles, like this, not in their Sgt. Pepper days."

Paul Berriff's Rock Legends exhibition runs at Pocklington Arts Centre until August 29