Jonah R. Calinawan, BMath, CA, MFA
September 8, 1969 to February 7, 2022
This website celebrates the life and work of its artist creator, Jonah Rosos Calinawan, a remarkable, beautiful, gentle, and talented individual who died unexpectedly on February 7, 2022.
Jonah, born on September 8, 1969, was raised on a rural pineapple plantation, owned by Dole Philippines, Inc., in the countryside of Mindanao, the southern-most island of the Philippines. From an early age, he excelled academically and demonstrated a love for the arts, including playing the piano. At the age of 17, shortly after the death of his father, Jonah immigrated, with his mother and younger sister (Debbie) to Toronto, Canada to join his older sister (Sofy) in search of a better future. After completing high school in Toronto, Jonah pursued undergraduate studies in accounting at the University of Waterloo (UW), Canada. The accounting profession and UW’s co-operative program, where he could alternate study terms with work terms, offered financial security for himself and his family.
In 1994, Jonah graduated, with distinction, from UW with a Bachelor of Mathematics—Honours Chartered Accountancy Co-op, with a minor in Statistics. He then passed the national qualification examination to earn his Chartered Accountant (CA) designation. With his CA designation, Jonah rapidly progressed at KPMG, one of the world’s largest international accounting firms, attaining the rank of Senior Manager within KPMG’s International Taxation consulting group. In 1998, he met his partner, Dale Needham, MAcc, CA, MD. They shared many friends, a love for travel, and the passion for using their many skills to impact the world in a positive way.
In 2003, Jonah’s career path changed with his move to Baltimore, Maryland, where Dale had been accepted into a doctoral program at Johns Hopkins University. With the opportunity to start a new job, Jonah pursued a personally meaningful career experience: working for a supranational organization that sought to make a positive difference for those living in low- and middle-income countries. Jonah secured employment with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) within The World Bank Group in Washington, DC, where he distinguished himself via the excellence and creativity of his work, and his humble and thoughtful nature.
As he rose in his career and had established financial security, Jonah rapidly expanded his pursuit of artistic endeavors. Back in Toronto, in 2002, he discovered digital photography. With his characteristic passion for new ideas, Jonah became captivated with digital photography, taking numerous courses and pursuing extensive self-study, ultimately building a personal library of more than 100 technical, historical and artistic photography-related books. His initial work included commercial photography, including food photography. Even as he worked full-time at the IFC/World Bank, Jonah’s commercially-oriented images were published in magazines and books, and were made available for licensing at established international stock photography agencies based in London and Munich.
In 2010, Jonah advanced his artistic pursuits via the online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the Academy of Art University (San Francisco). He completed this degree while working full-time at the IFC/World Bank, and graduated Magna cum Laude. Through this four-year process, Jonah further developed a focus on fine art photography, specializing in collaged digital photographs that were individually hand-printed using a 19th-century process called cyanotype. Immediately upon graduation, his photography gained international attention with Jonah being one of only two North American-based artists invited to exhibit at the Shenzhen International Photography Week in Shenzhen, China in 2014. Jonah’s deep blue-colored photographic prints continued to be exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally.
Jonah’s passion for his art continued to evolve. In 2019, at the age of 50 years old, and after 25 years in accounting-related fields, Jonah retired early from the IFC/World Bank to become a full-time artist. This meant continuing to create his distinctive artwork and increasing its visibility. Characteristically for Jonah, it also meant further broadening his field of artistic study: he devoured the writings of Joseph Campbell (particularly the four functions of myth and the emergence of a personal and creative mythology) and Carl Jung (the collective unconscious, archetypes, shadow, holding the tension of opposites, synchronicity, dream interpretation, and active imagination). After careful consideration, he then commenced a low-residency, combined MA/PhD program in Mythology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute (Carpinteria, CA) to achieve a deeper understanding of the application of mythological and spiritual themes to his artwork.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic making his graduate studies entirely online, Jonah was highly engaged in these academic pursuits and adored by his graduate classmates given his contagious enthusiasm, mischievous smile, unending curiosity, passion for asking questions, and unwavering support for his fellow students. Jonah was still in the process of his studies when he died.
Jonah is sadly missed by his partner of more than 23 years Dale, along with his surviving family, including his mother, two sisters (and brothers-in-law), niece, and two nephews. He is also missed by the close friends from around the world whose lives he touched and brightened, and in particular by those in Toronto and Baltimore.
Jonah’s friends and colleagues are encouraged to view Jonah’s memorial website at https://memories.net/timeline/jonah-calinawan-39654. Please register at the website if you wish to add memories or photographs to the website.
Jonah’s website, A Million Suns (www.amillionsuns.com), is preserved to continue allowing others to find inspiration in his life, his work, and his blog writings.