I always expect to hear that guys like Crewdson and Soth have switched from film to some digital thing they got from a Hubble Space Telescope surplus store. :D
So far as getting shown and known, it seems to have been a mix of knowing the right people and sheer determination. With the scale of work he does he's backed by galleries who take on the production role of funding the project, so building up to that level was simply a matter of working hard for years and making good work until the galleries believed in what he was doing. Building relationships with people and institutions is clearly part of that.
And his explanation for the shift from film to digital was simply because it suited his process of working better - not being able to see the result straight away has always been a real problem, especially considering the complex mix of of natural and introduced lighting in a lot of photos. If you don't get it right, working with twilight and a massive team of people, you're screwed, basically, and no amount of work in post-production will ever fix it. He said he wont go back to film.
The latest body of work seems to have been about downsizing the scale of how he does things. They were all shot straight, nothing was added in post, and printed at a fairly small size compared to his previous work. Nothing to do with resolution, it was just the right tool for the job for him.
He seems to be reluctant to talk tech over concept and content, which frankly is how it should be, but he's more than capable.
Mr. Crewdson is undertaking an exercise which has similar logistics.
It all tidied off today and he's on the way to Sydney to spend some time with his brother (who's also a heck of a nice guy and chatted to us over lunch today). He signed books and posters for people, and then came to the pub with us for a few hours. He dealt with people getting photos taken with him well, he spent time talking to everyone he could, and the only time he was ever really tense was when the media was in the room. He extended a honest invitation for all of the people attending to contact him if they were ever in New York during autumn and he'd let them sit in on one of the weekly masters reviews at Yale - he also gave his personal contact details and said he'd really like to see our progress.
Honestly a humbling experience - great work just seems to come from working hard and being unnaturally committed, and that's what he's done.