Conversation Failed

In Swedish photographer Björn Nilsson’s personal project ‘Conversation Failed’ he engages with the challenges of being in a long term relationship: How can we relate to one another when the first infatuation fades and as the years pass? When the daily chores and routines creep up on you and settle in your mind and body? When they lurk in every conversation and words fail to hit target? The project addresses the challenge of disentangling ourselves from all that is said and done – all the accumulated disappointments and misunderstandings – to find touch points to reconnect.

“When I'm working on the project, I usually get into it, and listen to music because it feels right. Then I draw and draw – especially for this project. After that, I try to reenact the drawings, when I take the pictures. It's not too far from a documentary feel but still somewhat staged.”

— Björn Nilsson


The consequence of silence

Project: Conversation Failed, by Björn Nilsson

Dialogue is key in any relationship, but sometimes the words seem to run out or fail to hit on target. Swedish photographer Njörn Nillson’s project Conversation Failed explores the complexities that appear in long-term relationships based on his own experiences. The proejct delves into the intricate web of thoughts, feelings, and fears that emerge when faced with change. The artist draws from personal experiences and conversations with other couples, creating a body of work that serves as a visual narrative of love, compromise, sacrifice, and failure

In Conversations Failed Nilsson’s eye is focused on the dynamics of relationships, power structures, gender roles, and sexuality, providing a nuanced examination of the challenges couples encounter.

Björn Nilsson // Conversation Failed

Image making as therapeutic practice

The images are born out of a unique creative process that involves listening to music, drawing, and then reenacting the drawn scenes during the photo shoot. Nilsson’s approach blurs the lines between documentary and staged photography, capturing raw and authentic moments that convey the emotional essence of the subject matter. 

Nilsson has included his partner in the project which adds an intimate and personal dimension. Her willingness to be part of the images, initially seen as a potential therapy, speaks to the vulnerability and courage required to address the issues presented in the project. Nilsson is also open about the fact that the collaborative process has a flip side and was not without its challenges, as his partner disagreed with the initially staged approach, preferring a more authentic and unfiltered portrayal process. And actually she was a more hesitant participant than he expected.

Björn Nilsson // Conversation Failed

A life entangled

For the project Nilsson has also collaborated with Clara Diesen, a poet and screenwriter. Her poetry suite complements the visual elements, transforming the meaning of the images and adding a poetic resonance to the narrative. This collaboration enhances the emotional impact of the project, creating a synergy between the visual and literary aspects encapsulated in it. 

The melancholic tone of the images serves to underline the struggles within long term relationships, emphasizing the importance of communication. Nilsson’s reflection on entanglement as a metaphor for communication breakdowns captures the confusion and suspicion that arise when couples fail to address issues head-on. The entanglement becomes a symbolic representation of the complexity of relationships, where the true nature of the problem remains obscured.

The emotional dance of relationships

Conversation Failed not only encapsulates the challenges of communicating in a long-term relationship but also highlights the potential for understanding and reconciliation. Through a blend of visual and literary elements, the project invites viewers to reflect on their own relationships, emphasizing the necessity of open communication and the consequences of a silence that breeds entanglement. It stands as a testament to the intricate dance of emotions within a relationship and the perpetual effort required for understanding and connection.

Björn Nilsson // Conversation Failed


“This work is about how your life can get entangled over time, and how relationships and responsibilities can get mixed up and can create confusion. There's suspicion between the two parties, and you don't know what's what in the end. It could be about not buying a carton of milk, having a bad sex life, forgetting to pick up the kids, or doing something wrong. That's what I think about when I am considering entanglement in relation to this project.”

— Björn Nilsson

Text and edit · Felipe Abreu and Christine Almlund

Björn Nilsson works as a photographer in Stockholm. He is educated in journalism, art history and social science from the Swedish school of Journalism and Stockholm University. He always expressed himself through images, whether it is through photography, paintings or drawings. In recent years he has become more and more interested in human relations and society as a whole, how it affects us.

Selected achievements

  • – 2024 “Conversations Failed”, Artist feature, PHROOM 
  • – 2023 Helsinki Photo Festival, Nordic Village
  • – 2023 “Samtal misslyckades”, Candyland, Stockholm
  • – 2022 Artist feature, Der Greif 
  • – 2021 Prix de la Photographie de Paris, Honorable mention for the photobook “Samtal misslyckades”