Or: the mad smelly stuff in your Darkroom.

Fixer is one of the key photographic chemicals, nearly always almost straight sodium thiosulfate or ammonium thiosulfate.

Fixer's sole purpose is to make light sensitive photographic materials (negatives and photographic paper) insensitive to light. It does this by removing (dissolving) all the unexposed silver halide from the material while leaving the developed silverintact.

Putting the film/paper through fixer is one of the last stages of development, and until processing the material through the fixer it is imperative to keep the material away from light. Those who ignore this warning seek ruin.

Hypo (after Sodium hyposulfate, the chemical later renamed as sodium thiosulfate) is another word interchangeable for fixer, but it gets less usage these days than it once did. Oddly, the chemical you use to make sure all the fixer is cleaned away from the material is still referred to as Hypo Clear. Go figure.

In the parlance of the confidence game, a fixer is a professional criminal employed by a crew of grifters to assist them with the big game. However, a fixer is not necessarily a con operator himself, nor does he necessarily call himself a "fixer".

When employed by grifters, the fixer is used to bring pressure to bear (in one way or another) against the local authorities in order that the operators can safely run their game. At some point, judges, police, district attorneys or prosecutors, journalists, politicians and other public officials, or even ordinary citizens may need to be silenced or compelled to assist the operators.

While con men often move from place to place, setting up shop for a while and then moving on, the fixer is most often a local or even a native of the city or region in which the crew works. For this reason, among others, the fixer is not often part of the crew unless the crew owns the town: that is, they have influence enough over the authorities and the city in general that they can run their game with relative impunity. One relatively famous example of this is the infamous Lou Blonger gang, which operated in Denver for more than thirty years.

This may entail any of a number of methodologies which can be lumped into two general categories of coersion:

  1. Direct coersion, which includes extortion (blackmail, bribery and ransom) as well as direct threats, physical abuse, torture and the like

  2. Indirect coersion, which includes forms of trickery and deception such that the subject of the coersion is not necessarily aware of who he is protecting or what effect his actions will have.

One example of direct coersion might be this simple blackmail scheme: the fixer uses the age-old badger game to maneuver a police chief into a compromising position. The fixer agrees not to expose the chief to his wife, daughter and constituents if he agrees to turn a blind eye to the goings on of the fixer's clients— the confidence men.

Alternatively, indirect coersion might be used in tandem or on its own: by hiring (or coercing) some thugs to make trouble in another part of town, the police presence in the area of the big game (or, particularly, a short con) might be reduced sufficiently to take the heat off.

While most fixers have their hands in a number of honey jars, the most general term for a fixer is "influence peddler". Certainly, such men are often employed by politicians, businessmen and other crooks in order to give themselves a leg up, and as such are certainly not limited to grifters as clients. Indeed, the last few decades have seen a decrease in incidence of the long con and an increase in the prices these influence peddlers charge, hence they are not as affordable or as common in confidence games as they once were.



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