After reliving her horrific Paris heist on Sunday’s emotional episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian West took to Twitter to reflect on the incident — but one tweet in particular came as a surprise.
The reality star shared an unprecedented group photo of 23 photographers — the better part of Paris’ working paparazzi — captioning it with red and blue heart emojis and a French flag.
“To Kim & the Kardashians, we don’t love you because we need you — we need you because we love you,” reads the note on the image. “All the very best, your favorite French paps.”
As it turns out, the photographers had privately sent the picture to Kardashian West, 36, directly following the October incident in which she was held at gunpoint by masked men who stole millions of dollars worth of jewelry from her (including a $4 million ring) at the No Address Hotel during Paris Fashion Week.
Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE, one of the photographers who coordinated the photo reveals that it was “done spontaneously.”
“Kim left Paris on the Monday, Oct. 3, and we all felt badly for her,” he says. “The photo was taken on Thursday evening. We thought we should do something collectively to let her know we support her. It was just something we felt we wanted to do — something that we had to do.”
“I thought of it and mentioned it to a few others,” he continues, explaining that the rest of the group enthusiastically agreed. According to the photographer, even some of those who generally never have their picture taken because they prefer to work anonymously are included in the shot.
“We did it to tell Kim how sorry we were,” he adds. “She didn’t deserve this incredibly sad event in her life.”
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Most of those pictured have been photographing Kardashian West and her husband Kanye West for over five years — “some even longer,” explains the photographer.
“Frankly, we love her. She’s always been very giving to photographers, one of the nicest celebrities there is to work with,” he says. “It’s always been a great pleasure for us when she’s in town.”
The show of support, he suggests, is proof of the unique working relationship that has evolved between Kardashian West and the paparazzi. The pack of men and women on motorcycles who have followed her over the years have developed an unusually strong affection for the star, and often found themselves providing protection for her in crowds.
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Indeed, prior to the robbery, some members of the paparazzi had even alerted Kardashian West’s security about two riders who had suspiciously joined their pack, and the photographers have also assisted police in the investigation.
“We think it’s a good sign that she posted this photo [on Twitter],” the photographer tells PEOPLE. “We sent it to her privately in October, and hopefully the fact that she has put it online now is a sign that she is healing. She needed time. We hope she’ll eventually find a way to come back to Paris.“
Keeping Up with the Kardashians airs Sundays (9 p.m. ET) on E!