'Thank You For Your Call, Click': How Social Security Works (Or Doesn't) : The Picture Show After his partner of 32 years died, Bill Bowersock stopped receiving Social Security because on paper, their relationship doesn't count.
NPR logo 'Thank You For Your Call, Click': How Social Security Works (Or Doesn't)

'Thank You For Your Call, Click': How Social Security Works (Or Doesn't)

For 32 years Bill Bowersock lived with his partner Harvey Frand, Emmy-award winning producer of Battlestar Galactica. In Frand's last days, they were receiving a large sum of Social Security each month. But after Frand's death about a year ago, the money stopped flowing because on paper, the relationship — not an official marriage — didn't count. "I just don't exist in the eyes of the federal government," Bowersock told L.A.-based photographer Shawn Nee.

Nee met Bowersock at a walk for equality in Hollywood, and shadowed the widower (if we can call him that) as he finished packing up his house. Bowersock's income was slashed after Frand's death, making their former lifestyle unsustainable. Nee's project, shot entirely on film, is a small vignette that humanizes a much bigger issue of social security.

It's also one of many documentary projects that Nee has produced in L.A., showing a less glamorous side of the city. While celebrities like Natalie Portman live just a few blocks north of him, a block south, he says, "the poverty is extreme." This is the L.A. he hopes to expose. You can see more of Nee's work, including a weed-smoking superhero, on his website.